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Why do I have to join a union to get a job with a movie production company?

Wayne Faulkner

The cast and crew of HBO’s Eastbound & Down shoot a scene in an apartment complex off New Center Dr. in Wilmington on June 29, 2010. Staff Photo By Matt Born/Wilmington Star-News.

Q. In a right-to-work state like North Carolina, why do I have to pay $800 to $1,000 to join a union to get a job with a movie production company?

A. You don’t.

Under North Carolina law, union membership or the lack thereof cannot be a condition of hiring or of employment.

“The right of a person to work cannot be denied or abridged because that person belongs – or does not belong – to a labor union,” reads the N.C. Department of Labor poster put up in work places.

That poster can be found on the department’s website, www.nclabor.com. In the right hand column, click on Labor Law Posters. Then in the left hand column of that page, click on English or Spanish versions.

Click here to read or download the English version.

“In addition, an employer cannot require any person, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment, to pay any dues, fees or other charges of any kind to a labor union,” the poster continues.

“Also, an employer cannot enter into an agreement with a labor union whereby (1) non-union members are denied the right to work for the employer, (2) membership is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment, or (3) the labor union acquires an employment monopoly in any enterprise.”

When non-union labor is employed, however, pay and benefits are the same as were agreed to under the union contract. said Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission.

“If the union says the rate of pay is $23 an hour, both union and non-union hires are paid the same wage and benefits,” he said.

Union members sometimes may have a leg up, though.

“We provide the studios with a list of our members who are pre-qualified as experienced technicians and then the producer does with that list what they want to do,” said Jason Rosin, business agent for Local No. 491 of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees in Wilmington.

“It is really helpful for the producers, but there is no obligation for producers to hire our members,” he said.

That practice is not illegal, said Neil O’Briant, spokesman for the N.C. Labor Department.


What is the economic impact and number of jobs created by film productions?

How does the N.C. film incentive work?

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