The seeds for a successful
organizing campaign sometimes are laid many years in advance. New York Local
1212 members saw that firsthand this spring, with the blossoming of a new unit
across the river.
The videoboard inside the Prudential Center in Newark. N.J. Members of the building’s video production crew, which is responsible for its operation, voted to join New York Local 1212 and are working on a contract.
Flickr/Creative Commons photo by silverbembel.
About 10 years ago, Local 1212 negotiated a new contract for workers it represented at PVI Virtual Media Services, a company that inserts images and video into broadcasts and developed the yellow down line now seen in football telecasts. Business Manager Ralph Avigliano remembers it as a tough negotiation that required a lot of time and resources.
But the hard work made an impression on PVI employees. One of them now works in video production at the Prudential Center in Newark, N. J., home of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. They remembered the professionalism of the Local 1212 staff and negotiating team.
Not surprisingly, when those workers were looking for representation at the Prudential Center in early January, they called Local 1212. Four months later, they voted to accept, adding about 45 members to Local 1212 and scoring a big organizing win in an area that’s already heavily unionized.
“The effort, strength, tenacity, whatever words you want to use to describe it, they never forgot how hard we fought for them,” Avigliano said. “It left an impression on them on what it means to be part of a union.”
Local 1212 members hope to have a contract agreement around the time the NHL’s preseason starts in September. Devils Arena Entertainment oversees day-to-day operations for the building.
“I know how I have been treated over the last 10 years,” said Local 1212 member Joe Jordan, who worked at PVI and now works as an assistant video engineer and camera operator at the Prudential Center. “My experience with Local 1212 has been wonderful. I knew going into this it would be wonderful for the other people who work here.”
Jordan stressed that he didn’t think he and his co-workers were being treated poorly, but some concerns expressed to management were falling on deaf ears. He and colleague Peter Balsamo – who did not work for PVI -- were among the Prudential Center employees who reached out to Local 1212 officials and Dominick Macchia, a broadcasting and telecommunications international representative in the Third District.
For Balsamo, who also is an attorney, it was simply a realization that it was time for representation.
“People realized that nothing was going to change, so we needed to be stewards for change,” said Balsamo, an engineer who has worked at the Prudential Center for nine years. “It was nothing against management. It’s not an us-versus-them mentality. It was just us looking out for us.”
The Prudential Center was the only major arena in and around New York City in which video employees weren’t unionized. Avigliano said two other factors sealed the deal.
First, he and business representative Ryan O'Boyle agreed to meet with the employees at any time. That was important in an industry where video personnel often work in the evenings, weekends and late at night. He and Macchia credited O’Boyle for much of that.
“There was constant attention to whatever these guys needed,” Macchia said.
And second, they were transparent in things like Local 1212’s dues structure and what exactly they would gain from IBEW representation, he said. That defused any attempt by management to disparage the benefits of union representation.
“That was the key to this,” Avigliano said. “We were so transparent that by the time the company wanted to take a shot at the union structure, it was useless to them.”
Macchia and Avigliano said O’Boyle, who has been on Local 1212’s staff for just one year, immediately bonded with the Prudential Center employees. O’Boyle, 37, connected with the younger workers there in a way that an older union member might not, Macchia said.
“This kid gets it,” he said. “I’m the old guy. I know enough to be dangerous. But this guy talks their lingo. He got to sit there and talk face-to-face with them and talk with them daily.”
O’Boyle noted that all 11 employees that he, Avigliano and Macchia met with during the initial meeting signed cards requesting votes for representation.
“I felt comfortable with Joe and earned his trust pretty quickly,” he said. “We’re about the same age. We understand where the technology is and where it’s going and we had a lot of similarities in that way.
“We never made any promises except we were going to work our tails off and we did,” he said.
Balsamo said he and his colleagues explored other options, but none could match the prestige of Local 1212.
“They’re affiliated with the IBEW,” he said. “Not that there aren’t other unions out there, but it’s a large, well-known union. That was important to me.”
Macchia noted that scoring an organizing win for Local 1212 is difficult because broadcast workers in New York are already heavily represented by the IBEW and other unions.
“What’s great about this story is that this is what happens when you do the right thing,” he said. “Ten years ago, we did the right thing for everyone at that company. Those guys started talking and they remembered that.”
Added O’Boyle: “What is shows is that Local 1212 will go above and beyond when it comes to being of service to our members.”