The Publicists Guild Awards will have a new speaker after ICG president Lewis Rothenberg defeated incumbent Steven Poster last May for a three-year term. Poster had been elected head of the ICG since 2006, but Rothenberg was able to win the position via a campaign that promised more organizing and better communications with the membership.

It’s not exactly new turf for Rothenberg, who had previously been the guild’s national vice president for two terms and had served on the national executive board for nine years. He notes that he had been part of negotiations to improve the master contract for publicists in the two most recent negotiating cycles.

“In 2015, we were able to include benefits for publicists working outside Los Angeles and New York,” he says. “In 2018, we negotiated senior publicists on call getting a 60% increase when they worked on the sixth and seventh days. Publicists have a unique skill set that’s very valuable.”

Two days before the Academy Awards, as they do every year, Hollywood’s union publicists will stage their awards lunch. With the Oscars falling extra early this time around, the 57th edition of the ceremony will take place on Feb. 7 at the Beverly Hilton as usual. This year’s honorees include former publicist Ava DuVerney, who will be awarded the television showman of the year kudo, and siblings Anthony and Joe Russo with the motion picture showman award.

In all, 347 publicists are part of the Intl. Cinematographers Guild. The publicist union was merged into the ICG in 2002. The group has about 4% of the 8,873 members of the ICG, which operates as Local 600 of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and is the largest IATSE local.

Rothenberg previously worked mostly in New York with credits as a digital imaging technician on “Avengers: Infinity War,” 2016’s “Ghostbusters” and “Girl on the Train.” He recently worked as a video controller for E! at the Golden Globes.

He says Poster and Rebecca Rhine, national executive director, have provided him with plenty of help with the adjustments of working in Los Angeles and becoming national president.

“I give Steven Poster tremendous credit for making this a smooth transition for me,” he adds. “We have an incredible professional staff in Los Angeles and Rebecca Rhine is doing an incredible job.”

Rothenberg wrote in an essay last year for the ICG Magazine that the union has long provided a strong culture of mentorship since he joined in 1979 and that he is emphasizing those themes.

“For years I was always the new ‘young’ guy on the crew,” he wrote. “Forty years later, it’s hard for me to accept that a great many of the members I work with weren’t even born when I started.

“I often wonder if that’s what the great filmmakers who mentored me thought. I was fortunate to work for some incredible union craftspeople, who embraced the long tradition in our industry of on-set mentorship — a tradition that continues to thrive to this day. Without their guidance, I never would have grown to have the successful career I’ve been so fortunate to have.”

He pointed out that from 1993 through 2019, IATSE membership had grown from 75,000 members to more than 147,000. Public approval of unions today is at a 50-year high (64%), with approval of unions by young people at a similar peak of 67%.

“This gives me great hope in the next generation of filmmakers and union leaders. The proliferation and growth of Young Worker Committees throughout the entire IATSE is an indication of how these members are getting involved with the labor movement, spreading and fostering
union ideals.”

Rothenberg noted that the ideals of unions are what has given them staying power. “With the creation of the National Labor Relations Act in 1939 — part of FDR’s New Deal that actually codified our rights for collective bargaining — and then the restrictions put on those rights in 1947 by the Taft-Hartley Act, and then the unprecedented growth of unions through the late 1970s, followed by the steady decline after President Reagan fired 11,359 striking Professional Air Traffic Controllers [PATCO] in 1981, our younger members could have grown apathetic,” Rothenberg says. “But, clearly, their current trend of activism and approval proves the staying power of the union ideals.”

WHAT: 57th Annual ICG Publicists Awards
WHEN: Feb. 7
WHERE: Beverly Hilton