International Documentary Association Union Recognized by IDA Leaders
Now, the International Documentary Association and workers will iron out a contract and work together to continue rebuilding its sparse workforce.
The International Documentary Association has voluntarily recognized the union organized by its employees, IDA and the union announced today. IDA leaders and workers both say they hope this marks a positive step forward as the beleaguered organization begins to rebuild after months of strife. One of the first opportunities will be how management and union will work together to iron out a contract and pursue much-needed hiring – IDA has lost nearly 50% of its workforce since December.
“This is a historic day for IDA workers who have worked tirelessly to achieve a union in our organization,” Hansen Bursic, a member of the union’s organizing committee, Documentary Workers United, said in a statement. “We are excited to get to work to achieve the goals set out in our mission statement and fight for a contract that benefits staff.”
In his own statement, IDA executive director Rick Pérez said the union marked “a positive step forward that will help forge a new direction for the organization and its staff.”
“IDA is committed to working with the union on next steps which include the collective bargaining process, further articulating our respective roles and responsibilities and establishing processes that enable us to strengthen IDA, develop our shared vision of a more equitable and inclusive documentary community and fulfilling the organization’s core obligations to the field,” Pérez said.
The union recognition comes as extraordinary tensions remain within IDA and the tight-knit documentary community following recent events at the 40-year-old nonprofit. More recently, there has been a public back-and-forth over exactly how the union will be recognized. Unhappy with IDA leaders dragging their feet on the issue, workers filed an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board to trigger a structured process to iron out all the details last month.
While IDA leaders publicly backed the union, workers fought for full management agreement on the points in their mission statement and the specific positions that would be included in the bargaining unit. With this voluntary recognition, they have succeeded, and an election is no longer necessary.
Four senior executives left en masse in January after an investigation into their complaint against Pérez resulted in no action by the board other than implementing communications training for Pérez. Among their concerns: What they described Pérez’s top-down, top-down management style, and moves by Pérez and the board that they say undermined IDA’s previous equity commitments . A parade of other staff departures followed in the following months.
The organization began to replenish its ranks. Last month, IDA announced three new hires: Keisha Knight (Director of IDA Funds and Corporate Program), Abby Sun (Director of Artist Programs) and Louise Rosen, a senior consultant “responsible for reviewing operations , programs and planning in collaboration with current and incoming staff.
Each’s communications focused on the ideals of fairness and how the IDA best serves the community. These are concepts that workers, IDA leaders and members of the field all theoretically agree on, but there will no doubt be conversations about how best to achieve these goals and what it is for. looks exactly like.
When workers first announced they had organized on March 14, they released a mission statement that outlined goals, including that leaders should “put staff concerns first and set deadlines/ reasonable benchmarks for the organization, rather than repairing IDA’s public image”, “the involvement of relevant staff members in critical departmental decisions” and “the protection of the executive authority of staff over their organizational tasks, as stated in their job descriptions”.
The goals address concerns raised by current and former staff members about how IDA under Pérez and board leadership had taken a “top-down” approach. Achieving fairness by rejecting such an approach in the realm of nonfiction was the focus of a speech last week by Poh Si Teng, one of four senior IDA executives who left after a conflict. with Pérez earlier this year.
“It’s hard to imagine a hierarchical structure, a structure that lacks collaboration that effectively contributes to the public good. Top-down structures create too many gaps in our knowledge and make it very difficult for the organization to serve our documentary field,” Teng said.
Prior to the departure of Teng and his colleagues, there were internal disputes over Pérez’s approach to a phased fundraising plan that had been previously announced, and Pérez’s decision to add the film a board member at IDA’s documentary screening series after he was passed over by a programming committee.
The confusion and chaos surrounding the crisis at IDA over the past few months has drawn strong reactions from the documentary community. Earlier this week, members of the field penned an open letter offering their support for Pérez, the board and the union, while denouncing “innuendo and suspicion” about the executive director.
It is troubling that Pérez, the first person of color to permanently hold the position at IDA, is still presumed guilty, wrote the group, which includes prominent former Sundance programmer Bird Runningwater; filmmakers Anayansi Prado, Dawn Valadez and Jim LeBrecht; and former IDA employees Ranell Shubert and Toni Achebe Bell. They asked the IDA to hold a public town hall meeting, as previous “clarification talks” hosted by the organization were not open to everyone who wished to attend.
One of the signatories, filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes, told IndieWire he counts Pérez as a mentor. He said he hopes the plot will be able to move past what he sees as a character assassination of Pérez so IDA can begin to heal. He hopes the union will provide the organization with a structured way to rebuild itself.
“All of this has created a cloud of suspicion which is very toxic to all of us,” he said. “I’m very excited about what Rick can do at IDA. I’ve seen him mentor filmmakers, I’ve seen his advocacy, and he loves movies. That’s what we need, from my point of view, to fight for change in this organization and move it forward.