nobody movie_Independent union wins in Mass. cinema – People’s World

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Amherst Theater staff smile after receiving check recognition for their independent union at the nonprofit arts institution. From left to right: Margaret György, Kiah Raymond, Scotti Goss. | Alfonso Neal / Pioneer Valley Workers Center

AMHERST, Mass. – What do you do when you’re a lowly clerk at a small nonprofit movie theater in a college town and haven’t gotten a raise in a while?

Answer: If you are the 11 box office clerks at the Amherst (Mass.) Cinema, form the Amherst Cinema Workers United, an independent union, and collect National Labor Relations Board union “yes” voting cards from everyone. Inform the theater board and strive for voluntary recognition, also known as card verification.

And three days later, on April 25th, you get it. No choice necessary.

“What we’ve asked for is transparency, changes to the layout” within the theater to make the job easier, “and to point out that none” of the 11 workers “had received any raises since before” the virus struck,” said Brian Zayatz, one of two workers interviewed by phone shortly before the recognition. In contrast, employees on the management side received raises.

The best thing about the campaign is the spirit of collaboration and collaboration among workers, said Kiah Raymond. “The process was really cool because it was a collective effort. The staff took on more responsibilities at each step – and did so while consulting with all of us.”

And just to make sure the progressive Amherst area knew what was going on, workers emailed through the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and posted their announcement on a local listings service, Raymond added. That worked too.

“Patrons came up to us in the lobby and said, ‘Hey, I heard about your union.'”

There are other unions in the Amherst area as it is the University of Massachusetts in a pro-union deep blue state, the two said. But this is the first at a small and independent art venue. Now the next step will be to prepare for negotiations, said Alfonso Neal, a co-executive director at the Workers Center who has helped keep their organizing spirit alive.

And they hope to be an example for other workers in other small art venues.

The organizing and “formation of the ACWU by the workers of Amherst Cinema and the decision by the Amherst Cinema Board of Directors to voluntarily recognize their union is a historic moment for our region and reflects the upsurge in union activity and organizing nationwide,” he told Neal when disclosing the card check identification.

“The Pioneer Valley Workers Center looks forward to hearing from the theater’s board and entering into good faith contract negotiations on behalf of ACWU. When workers fight, they win and I hope this ACWU victory will inspire all workers in our region to get organized and turn to us, local unions and other community organizations for support.”


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