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Union leader Coffey dies

Soundman fought for better wages, conditions

Jack Coffey, who headed several Hollywood unions in the 1970s and 1980s, died of prostrate cancer Dec. 13 in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He was 75.

Coffey started by working on film sets as a boom operator on films including “Ocean’s Eleven.” He was elected to head the Local 695 Sound Technicians, and fought hard during the turbulent union times of the ’70s and ’80s for better wages and conditions.

He took on studio leaders including Lew Wasserman, Barry Diller and David Begelman, once leading Paramount and Universal to quit the AMPTP and winning a 39% raise for his members.

Coffey once pulled his crews off “The Hindenberg” set just hours before it collapsed and off of “Jaws” before the filming barge sank with the cameras and other crew onboard. He was proud of being the first to bring in African-Americans into his union and he also campaigned tirelessly to keep a three-person sound crew as the standard configuration.

After more than 25 years in IA politics, he retired in 1993 as head of the Script Supervisors Local #871.

He is survived by his wife, Kell; a son, Chris; a daughter, Linda, a production sound mixer; and a son, John, a production sound mixer and president of Coffey Sound.

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