Eleven staff at the nonprofit International Documentary Association (IDA) have announced the formation of a union, Documentary Workers United (DWU) linked with the larger Communication Workers of America Local 9003.
As a March 14 Deadline article noted, the workers “sent a statement to IDA executive director Rick Pérez on Monday morning informing him of the decision, and gave him 24 hours to grant ‘voluntary recognition’ of the union.”
The demand for union recognition comes in the wake of continued resignations at the non-profit, citing unresolved issues of abusive behavior, leadership apathy, and other problems in the organization.
“We stand on the shoulders of our unionized colleagues at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Film at Lincoln Center, and Jigsaw Productions—among many others—as we embark on this fight for a just workplace,” noted one of the union organizers.
Left Voice applauds the decision by IDA workers to unionize and calls on the labor movement and broader public to support Documentary Workers United in its demand for recognition.
Here, we reproduce DWU’s press release and mission statement.
Press Release: International Documentary Association Staff Take Steps Towards Unionizing
Los Angeles, CA (March 14, 2022) – The staff of International Documentary Association (IDA) officially submitted a statement today asking for voluntary recognition of a union at the leading documentary nonprofit. This was sent after a unanimous vote by staff to pursue a union, under the name Documentary Workers United (DWU), in partnership with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 9003.
This vote included all full-time staff—11 out of a total of 16 remaining IDA staff—whose designations fall below the Senior Manager level, and who have not been brought in over the last few months to temporarily fill vacant positions. This decision comes as staff face unprecedented challenges at the organization. Since December 2021, nearly 50% of staff has left the organization, many in protest to the fact that numerous concerns raised by staff remain unaddressed.
DWU’s mission statement—included below—was forwarded to IDA executive director, Richard Ray “Rick” Pérez, at 10:00 am PT, and he has been given 24 hours to respond.
“We are hopeful that there won’t be any organizational resistance to this initiative,” said a DWU organizer who decided to remain unnamed, “However, we are prepared to pursue a formal election in accordance with US law if we are met with opposition.”
“After a rocky start to 2022, we have determined that unionizing is the only way—as our mission statement says—’to continue fighting for IDA’s mission and community, to reduce employee turnover, and to resist the erasure of institutional memory.'” they added.
“We stand on the shoulders of our unionized colleagues at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Film at Lincoln Center, and Jigsaw Productions—among many others—as we embark on this fight for a just workplace,” another lead organizer continued, “We seek solidarity and support from our peers as we work towards a documentary ecosystem that serves the community—including, us, the workers—in the fair and just ways we deserve to be served.”
DWU social media accounts include @IDAWorkersUnion on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as well as the hashtag #StandWithIDAWorkers.
Documentary Workers United: Mission Statement
We, the staff of the International Documentary Association (IDA), have decided to collectively exercise our rights under the United States Law to organize a union. This union will make IDA stronger and more effective as well as fulfill IDA’s mission. It will empower and protect the staff as we demand necessary improvements, negotiate equity (of salary, benefits, working conditions, and support), and build solidarity across departments.
It is critical we establish a union because it will help guarantee a safe workplace with transparency, equity, and fairness while providing the staff with opportunities to participate and have a voice in IDA’s management and vision. As those closest to the work, we seek to have a say in decisions about organizational priorities, hiring of staff, growth, and resource allocation to keep all aspects of our work more accountable to our mission and values.
We have reached the conclusion that we need the structure and power of a union to advocate for us in an environment where we feel largely unsupported. To this effect, we—the staff of the International Documentary Association (IDA)—have chosen the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 9003 as our voice. We are partnering to create a safe and just workplace, and to negotiate a legally binding contract that addresses the goals we have set forth collectively:
Prioritize staff concerns and set reasonable timelines/benchmarks for the organization, over fixing IDA’s public image.
Continue to respect the authority of the IDA Employee Handbook.
Create a clear process for reporting issues to leadership in good faith, without the fear of repercussions.
Create accountability for situations where IDA leadership diminishes current and former staff (foul language, aggressive outbursts, sharing confidential information, etc.) in both private and public settings.
Transparency in the promotion and hiring processes within an equitable and sustainable leadership/department structure along with a fair and competitive pay scale for all staff members.
Involvement of relevant staff members in crucial departmental decisions.
Fair compensation for additional work staff takes on to accommodate for vacant positions.
Protection against scrutiny for supplementary work done outside of IDA work hours.
Protection of the staff’s executive authority over their organizational duties as outlined in their job descriptions.
Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) long term.
We, the workers of IDA, invest our most authentic and fearless selves so that IDA can prosper, endure, and serve our community. In order for any organization to prosper, working conditions and the workplace environment must improve for everyone. We are taking these actions in order to be able to continue fighting for IDA’s mission and community, to reduce employee turnover, and to resist the erasure of institutional memory. We believe unionizing is the step we need to take in order to make these improvements a reality.
We want IDA to Voluntarily Recognize all Associates, Coordinators, Specialists, Officers and non-Senior Managers of our Union. We would like a signature or response to this request within 24 hours.
Questions or messages of solidarity can be sent to: [email protected]
This newly public struggle can be followed on social media:
@IDAWorkersUnion on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook