A branch of the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters has launched a boycott of the non-union Quixote Studios, one of Hollywood’s largest operators of truck and trailer fleets.
Burbank-based Teamsters Local 399, which reps about 5,000 drivers, location managers and casting agents, has told members to stop working for Quixote after the company pulled the plug on a negotiation scheduled for August 6 at Quixote’s offices. Local 399 had been seeking to represent the drivers, dispatchers, mechanics, technicians, cleaners and other workers at Quixote.
“We had met informally two weeks ago and scheduled two days of formal negotiations at Quixote’s offices for August 6 and 7,” said Steve Dayan, secretary-treasurer of the local. “When we got there that morning, we waited for 10 minutes and then Quixote CEO Mikel Elliott delivered us a letter saying that they refused to negotiate. We got played and they’ve engaged in bad-faith negotiations.”
As a result, the local has filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board and plans to begin picketing Quixote sites on Aug. 22. It’s received sanction for the boycott by the national joint council, and notified the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Association of Independent Commercial Producers of its plans.
For its part, Quixote alleges that the Teamsters trespassed on its property on August 6 and insists that unionization will drive up costs at a time when California’s losing money to runaway production. The company has notified members of the California Film and Television Production Alliance — which is lobbying for Assembly Bill 1839 to improve the state’s incentive program — to stay out of the dispute.
“We are asking for neutrality from studios and production companies,” Quixote said in a note. “We hope your personnel will continue making buying decisions based on what’s best for production, rather than the dictates of a union.”
Both Quixote and Local 399 are part of the alliance along with all Hollywood unions and the Motion Picture Association of America. Dayan, who is chairman of the California Film Commission in addition to heading Local 399, said the letter was highly inappropriate.
“I do not believe this forum is the place to discuss the labor dispute between Teamsters Local 399 and Quixote Studios and demonstrates the naiveté of this organization,” Dayan said. “Local 399’s only focus with this alliance is to get AB1839 passed, anything else is just a distraction.”
Elliott said in an August 6 letter to Dayan that the Quixote board had decided against allowing Local 399 to organize their employees.
“We have no indication from our employees that they desire union representation or that they are disgruntled with work conditions, compensation benefits offered by Quixote,” the letter said.
Elliott also said he recognized that most of the Quixote trucks are operated by Local 399 members, adding that he wanted to continue that relationship.
“However, if you choose to undermine that long-standing relationship, understand that we will utilize every resource at our disposal to protect the company that we and our employees value and depend on,” he said. “We will make it clear to all our stakeholders that this is a labor dispute manufactured by a well-heeled union against a locally-grown, locally-based company at a time when our industry needs all stakeholders united to contain costs and bring business back.”
Variety first reported in May that Quixote had acquired Movie Movers Inc. for an undisclosed price in a deal that combined two major players in Hollywood production truck and trailer fleets.
Dayan noted that Quixote is a nationwide company that already has a contract with Teamsters Local 817 in New York.
“How dare a company that made enough money off the backs of its employees in Los Angeles to invest $15 million on a facility in Louisiana lecture on keeping jobs local,” Dayan wrote.
“And let’s be real, you want to keep your company’s labor costs down by even misclassifying employees as independent contractors not to pass the savings on to customers but to continue buying expensive foreign cars and buying up competitors like Movie Makers,” he added. “Indeed, if your employees are as happy and content with your wages, benefits and working conditions as you claim, why won’t you let us talk to them? And have you let your customers know that you have exposed them to potential liability and penalties as the joint employer of your misclassified employees?”
Quixote said in May that the merged entity had more than 200 full-time staffers with a fleet of 150 production trucks and over 450 trailers. About two-thirds of the vehicles are part of Movie Movers.
Quixote runs two studio facilities in Los Angeles and a third in New Orleans with a combined one million square feet of production space.
UPDATE — in a statement after the story posted, Elliott disputed several of Dayan’s assertions.
“The claims by Dayan that Quixote engaged in bad faith negotiations and was in error in contacting the California Film and Television Production Alliance are false and absurd. His claim that we are limiting Local 399 access to our employees is bizarre because our employees are easy to contact. We spent $3 million on our Louisiana facility, not $15 million. What Dayan doesn’t want his Hollywood Local 399 members to know is that Quixote offered Dayan the exact deal that Quixote has with the New York Teamster local, and Dayan shot it down.”
SECOND UPDATE — Dayan told Variety that Quixote has never offered Local 399 a contract.