Members of Intl. Photographers Guild Local 600 overwhelmingly voted for a new uniform dues structure covering all the nation’s camera personnel.

By law, Local 600 — formed last year following the merger of the nation’s three camera locals — was required to come up with a uniform dues plan.

The proposal to adopt a uniform dues structure passed by just over 72% of the vote, or 1,516 to 587.

But the new dues structure had generated controversy within the local: For the first time, it charges members on the West Coast dues based on a percentage of their gross earnings, in addition to a flat rate based on members’ certification. That means a dues increase for the bulk of the members in the West. Before the merger, percentage-based dues had been in place for members in the East and Midwest.

Under the new dues structure, the guild will charge a flat rate — based on three hours of pay under the guild’s West Coast daily scale rate and fees paid to the international — along with 1.15% of gross earnings, with the dues capped at $4,500 a year. A camera operator, for example, would pay $153 per quarter plus 1.15% of gross earn-ings. The proposal was endorsed by members of the national executive board.

Members voted 1,347 to 373 to adopt that option over another dues structure. The rejected plan would have let the guild charge a $120 quarterly flat rate for everyone, plus 1.75% of gross earnings. It also would have been capped at $4,500 a year.

Some critics had questioned the vote because members could choose between two options, both of which charged a percentage of gross earnings.

But other members and union officials have said the increase and new dues structure was necessary to support Lo-cal 600’s new responsibilities and its proposed budget of $5.5 million in 1997.

To meet the guild’s new budget, president George Spiro Dibie said the union would have had to double its flat rates if dues weren’t tied to percentages.

In a letter, Dibie said, “The expanded scope and responsibilities of our national guild call for an increase in dues-based revenue.”

With the merger, Dibie noted, the union has lost revenue because there was once a large number of members who paid dues to two or even three of the camera locals. Now they pay dues to one. Above-the-line guilds like the Direc-tors Guild charge a percentage of earnings in their dues structure.

The new dues structure will be retroactive to Jan. 1.

Also approved were new initiation fees. A director of photography, for example, will pay $8,802 to join; a film loader will pay $2,500. The fee is based on 3-1/2 times the weekly scale rate of West Coast members.

The newly merged guild has its national offices in Los Angeles. The guild held open-enrollment periods last year, which brought in an estimated 350 new members who had not been part of any camera local. The new guild has about 5,000 members.

“Our members have had to adjust to tremendous changes since the merger,” Bruce Doering, executive director of Local 600, said in a statement. “It hasn’t been easy. But they recognize that we can never go back to the former system where producers played one region against the other while building a pool of nonunion labor.”

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