Local 161 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees aims to obtain the best possible conditions for its members through collective bargaining. These conditions include not only wage issues but pension and welfare benefits as well. The union polices the resulting contracts to make sure the employer adheres to them.
Our members are comprised of Script Supervisors, Production Coordinators, Assistant Production Coordinators, Travel Coordinators, Production Accountants, Assistant Production Accountants and Payroll Accountants, all of whom work on feature films, commercials, television, and documentaries.
Local 161 has jurisdiction in 23 states: AL, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL (except Cook Co), LA, ME, MD, MA, MI (except for Script Supervisors in six counties in the Detroit area), NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VT, VA, WV and Washington, DC.
Local 161 of the IATSE was granted its original charter on April 10th of 1944 with seventeen Assistant Directors in the membership. Seven and a half years later, in October 1951, six Script Clerks were voted into membership and joined their AD brothers to successfully amend the local’s charter to include their craft. But that charter change didn’t happen until 1954. It is also significant to note that Nancy Kassell (later Littlefield) was voted into membership in 1953 as the first woman Assistant Director in the local. Nancy Littlefield went on to became a major contributor to the film community of New York City, serving as the head of the Mayor’s Office of Film and Television from 1978 through 1983 in Mayor Ed Koch’s administration. She is credited by many as being an integral part of the successful campaign to lure producers back to the east coast to shoot their films, television shows, and commercials.
In 1961, the Script Clerks officially became Script Supervisors in an effort to conform to the title change that had occurred with their counterparts in Los Angeles. Two years later in 1963, Production Assistants were organized into Local 161. At that time, this title covered some crewmembers who worked on set under the Assistant Directors as well as Production Secretaries who worked for the Production Managers and Producers in running the offices. Also in 1963, an arrangement was negotiated with the Directors Guild of America whereby the Assistant Directors left Local 161 and the IA and were integrated as members of the DGA. The on-set PAs left 161 along with the ADs, but the Production Secretaries remained, and together with the Script Supervisors they were able to amend the local’s charter once more to include only these two crafts later that same year. During the 1964 Majors contract negotiations the following year, the Production Secretaries successfully changed their craft title to Production Office Coordinators.
In the late 1990s Production Accountants working in the industry were collectively seeking representation and in August 1999 at the IA General Executive Board Meeting in Chicago, International President Thomas Short organized those Production Accountants in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut into Local 161. The Accountants were added to our charter at this time, but have yet to be included in our Collective Bargaining Agreement under our Majors Contract. This has been an ongoing endeavor over the past twenty years but they have been successfully added to a number of our other contracts and are often covered by side letters on Major Studio productions.
The latest development in our multifaceted collective has been the decision to clarify the title of the Production Coordinators craft to eliminate the descriptor of “Office” as they clearly coordinate the entire production. This change to our charter is in the works at present.
For far too long, we have seen so many atrocities like the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, as well as so many examples of police misconduct, abuse and brutality. Many of these troubling incidents have been captured on cellphones and shared on social media platforms. What cannot be viewed quite as easily are the many manifestations of systemic racism in this country experienced in the daily lives of Black Americans and in communities of color.
As workers and as human beings, IATSE Local 161 unequivocally stands shoulder to shoulder in the fight for racial equality and a more just society with every sister, brother and kin across this land. Black Lives Matter.
The labor movement recognizes that we must insist on the highest ideals of justice and equality throughout our society if we are to have any hope of achieving these ideals in the workplace. While organized labor has had its own checkered history when it comes to including and advancing black workers and all workers of color, our greatest labor movement leaders acknowledged that the struggle for full civil rights and justice for everyone in our nation is inseparable from the struggle for economic justice and equality at work. Our civil rights heroes realized the same, and the achievements of both movements were built on solidarity and collective action. It is sometimes forgotten that the 1963 March on Washington was a March for Jobs and Freedom. Its chief organizers and supporters included union leaders along with civil rights and religious leaders. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in 1968, he was in Memphis supporting black sanitation workers on strike for the right to form a union. King’s support for the sanitation workers reflected his long-held conviction that achieving economic justice was vital to achieving racial justice, the same holds true today. But the reverse also holds true; without racial justice, there can be no economic justice.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts or suggestions of how we can move forward in support.
The Members of IATSE Local 161
Working to obtain the best possible working conditions for our members through collective bargaining.