IATSE members file discrimination suit

Union, L.A. businesses accused of racial favoritism

Seven longtime members of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees have filed a suit accusing the union and major employers of race discrimination and nepotism in hiring practices.

“Minority union members, including but not limited to African-Americans and Latinos, are routinely not hired in the same numbers and proportions as white union members,” the suit said. “Moreover, less experienced Caucasian union members routinely fill jobs that should be filled by more senior minority union members.”

Suit, which seeks class action status and a wide variety of damages, was filed by members of stage crew Local 33 in Los Angeles Superior Court against the local, the IA, Anschutz Entertainment Group, Universal Studios Prods., House of Blues, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the city and county of Los Angeles. Reps for the IATSE, the city of Los Angeles and Universal had no comment when contacted.

The action targets an IA rule that allows employers to pay a small fee –such as a dollar — to bypass seniority rules and request specific individuals, who tend to be friends and relatives of the department head and of the same race for job assignments. “This policy is further advanced because supervisors or department heads of each of the private employers become friends with one another and they mutually agree to hire each other’s friends and relatives. The end result of this practice is racial discrimination.”

The suit was filed by IATSE members Gilbert Becerril, Faustino Huerta Jr., Richard Olivares, Albert Ibarra, Donald Rosemond, Paris Duval and Raymond Porter. According to the plaintiffs, they rank among the highest in seniority at Hollywood-based Local 33, which allegedly contains more than 150 minority group members.

In their suit they also allege that the IATSE and Local 33 have violated terms of a 1970 settlement agreement with the federal government, partly through a 1985 bylaw change that allowed supervisors to hire an unspecified number of assistants, all of whom can be specified by name.

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