The New York local of IATSE has elected William “Dusty” Klatt as its new president, in the first change of leadership in the union since 2004.
Klatt, a retired electrician, defeated Mandie DeMeskey, the local’s business representative, by a tally of 1,591 to 570 votes. DeMeskey is married to Matthew Loeb, the president of the parent union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
The election marks a change of direction for Local 52, which represents about 4,500 workers, including sound technicians, electricians, medics, grips, and prop masters.
“The union has to change — that’s my platform,” Klatt told Variety. “We need to rethink just about everything we do.”
Klatt has most recently served as the union’s recording secretary. In a message to the membership before the election, he argued that the union was not “effective, efficient, inclusive and transparent.”
Many members also expressed concern during the campaign that DeMeskey’s marriage to Loeb would compromise the local’s autonomy.
DeMeskey responded on Instagram, saying the concerns amounted to nothing more than “political fear mongering with no basis in reality.”
John R. Ford, who has been president of the local since 2004, endorsed DeMeskey in a message that was posted on Facebook on Nov. 14, calling her “the most qualified candidate for the job.” He also supported Tom Woods, who was the only candidate for vice president on the ballot.
Woods was elected with 1222 votes, though there was a sizable write-in vote, of 857 votes. Eddie DeCurtis was running as a write-in candidate, though it’s not clear from the tally released to members if all of the write-in votes went to him.
DeMeskey was running with a slate of nine other candidates, including Woods. Except for Woods, all of the members of her slate were defeated.
Klatt said that he put together a postcard with a three-member slate, including himself, Glynis Burke for chairman of the board of trustees; and Charles Meere for secretary-treasurer. Burke and Meere were both elected.
Klatt said that Meere told him that he didn’t want to be on his slate, however.
“I think the slate thing got batshit,” Klatt said. “My slate is every member in 52. That’s who I want on my slate.”
The union is dealing with a recent National Labor Relations Board settlement, which forbids the union from “bumping” nonmembers out of production jobs in favor of cardholders. The union officials are also required to do training on employee rights. Many of the members view the settlement has a threat to the union’s typical practices.
“I think it’s a giant setback, but I don’t think it’s a threat,” Klatt told Variety. “We’ve been in the shithouse before… The way we worked things out in the past is how we’re going to work things out now: be deliberate and learn from our mistakes.”
Klatt said a top priority is to have more shop stewards and field representatives who can work out labor issues on sets.
“We need to put more people in the field,” he said.
Klatt has served on committees to revise the union’s constitution. In his message to members, he promised to split the secretary-treasurer position into two separate jobs and to add an extra membership meeting to the calendar in September.