How to Join the Local 600 Union
Posted on: Jul 20, 2023
In the world of production, every project falls within two classifications: Union and Non-Union. Standards for production, wages and labor are upheld by the 65,000-plus motion picture members represented by an IATSE Local Union and in this article we’ll give a brief overview on how to pursue Union membership within Local 600—also known as the International Cinematographers Guild.
What is IATSE?
IATSE or the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, is a collective bargaining unit consisting of 362 Local Unions. The purpose of each Local Union is to negotiate labor contracts regarding wages, working conditions and hours. Some Local Unions also negotiate services for their members by administering health and retirement funds and providing training and education.
What is Local 600?
Local 600 is the representing body for all camera-related personnel, including cinematographers, operators, assistants, loaders and utilities. Local 600’s mission is: “To fight effectively for fair wages, sustainable benefits, a safe workplace, respect for craft and retirement with dignity for our members and their families using every tool at our disposal.”
Broken into three different regions, Local 600 represents camera departments across the U.S. by negotiating contracts for fair wages, setting standards for labor, providing a network of Union members for staffing, providing networking and educational opportunities and implementing community engagement programs through working groups and committees.
Why Join a Union?
The productions that are hitting the big screen today are a result of the agreement between the collective bargaining units that represent writers, directors, producers/production companies, actors and crew. The Union protects its members from the harsh conditions that production has the potential of bringing upon technicians. To be represented by a collective bargaining agreement means that every person within it agrees that certain base-level standards and safety guidelines are expected to be met by production companies in order for work to be done on-set.
Productions that work to comply with the guidelines will offer better set conditions, pay rates, production value and protections to technicians (such as workers’ compensation), guaranteed day rates and non-negotiable overtime—should the project call for it. In the event that a project does not meet the requirements, the Union would step in and advocate on the crew’s behalf—eliminating the need for crew members to have to advocate for their rates and safety, which allows them to work without fear of repercussions.
Requirements to Join
To join Local 600 in Los Angeles, the first step will be to sign up for an account with Contract Services. Contract Services is an external entity that will verify prerequisites and upon meeting the requirements, will add you to the Industry Experience Roster. For consideration into membership, the following must be submitted:
- 100 Paid Days on Non-Union projects within one Classification over a 3-year period OR
- 30 Paid Days on Union projects within one Classification over a 1-year period
Employment within your classification (cinematographer, camera operator, AC, etc.) is verified via payroll services on a project paid via W2, or an Employment Verification Letter signed by the production company and submitted to Contract Services when paid via 1099. Once you are deemed eligible for placement on the roster, you will be able to pay your initiation fees to the Union for membership and you will receive a membership card that will entitle you to the rights and privileges of a Union member.
Please note that every Union is different and has different eligibility requirements that can be found on each Local Union’s respective website. It is also important to note that days submitted to Contract Services must have a theatrical or TV release. Web-based content may not be eligible for verification. Begin the Contract Services process by submitting an application, which is available on their website at https://www.csatf.org.
It is my belief that every cameraperson that aspires to work on large scale production should look into Local 600. Their ranks have a large number of people that are actively pushing toward high standards and safety for all of its members. Union members can be incredibly helpful in your pursuit of membership. There are challenges to pursuing membership, but the reward is high if you know how to network and utilize the resources. I hope to see more camera personnel seeking Union membership in the near future to continue to advocate for the safety and well-being of future generations of filmmakers to come.
A special shout-out to my good friend and mentor, Matthew Thomas Borek (@camerasamurai on Instagram), for contributing his time and contributions to this blog post. He is a proud member of the Local 600 and provided his perspective in this piece to convey the most accurate information. Thank you for all of your support over the years.
About the Author: B.P. Edwards is a Director, Cinematographer and Camera Operator from Pasadena, CA. Since picking up the camera in 2015, he has worked on a wide variety of projects ranging from feature-length and short films to commercials, music videos and documentaries. In 2022, he was inducted into the Society of Camera Operators as an Associate Member and has since continued to hone his talents in working above and below the line. He is a proud graduate of Langston University, and the owner of the production company, BEARVISION.
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