IATSE Local 63 fighting anti-unionism in the CFL

By Denise Leduc

For over a decade, Local 63 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stages Employees (IATSE) has faced anti-union sentiment by some sports and entertainment groups in the city of Winnipeg, according to Barry Haines IATSE International Representative.63-logo

The latest incident occurred on November 16, three days after IATSE Local 63 had been awarded a commercial contract by the CFL to provide labour during the 2015 Grey Cup Half-Time Show. This contract would have hired up to 100 stagehands during the game. CFL organizers cancelled the deal less than two weeks before the event. Bids were requested in October for labour during the Grey Cup game and Local 63 was awarded the contract by the CFL on November 13. The union claims that the contract was cancelled three days later, apparently after the involvement of local interests. Barry Haines says, “We have direct knowledge from somebody inside the Blue Bombers that when they heard the union was awarded the contract Wade Miller, CEO went ballistic and said the union would never work there.” The contract was later given to a non-union labour company, NASCO which Local 63 maintains is the preferred company by Blue Bombers management and Investors Group Field. NASCO has been hired to do the work of all concerts at that stadium.

In a press release IATSE International Representative Barny Haines remarked, “It’s unfortunate that the showcase game of the Canadian Football League is being used to attack a trade union and the workers it represents.”

Haines said, “Once the Blue Bombers and CEO Wade Miller became involved, the CFL cancelled the contract and instead, it was awarded to the non-union labour company. Whatever happened to the fair business practices? It’s not fair that the contract awarded to IATSE Local 63 on the basis of a good-faith bid was taken away by the CFL because local interests wanted the work to go to a non-union company.”

Local 63 claims that anti-union sentiment from some sports and entertainment organizations in the city dates back to the opening of the MTS Centre in 2004. Local 63 had provided labour to the old venue, Winnipeg Arena for 50 years. According to press releases, despite negotiating with the MTS Centre for almost two years prior to the opening of the new arena IATSE learned that management had decided to go with an out-of-province temporary labour firm instead. The company, NASCO would still charge the MTS Centre the same rates as the union, however they would pay their workers low wages thereby raking in larger profits for the company. Local 63 then picketed the grand opening of the MTS Centre. They continue to be shut out of this venue, according to Haines.

In 2011, The Globe and Mail reported IATSE picketing U2’s live show when the union also had an arrangement with a concert promotor withdrawn at the request of local interests The union had agreed to match any costs of non-union labour. Local 63 then went to the labour board to try to certify non-union workers that were working on a U2 documentary that was being shot in the city at the same time. This was met with strong backlash from Live Nation, AEG, and the city.

The cancelled Grey Cup contract is just the latest incident for Local 63 in what appears to be anti-union feelings by some sports and entertainment organizations in Winnipeg. Yet, this union continues to stand up for their workers. In this case, the union has now taken legal action against the CFL and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Wade Miller, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has also been named in the claim.

A copy of the statement of claim can be downloaded here.

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