#OscarsSoWhite: How Should Hollywood’s Unions Respond?

By Ross Lenihan

Perhaps the biggest issue surrounding the 2016 Academy Awards can be summarized in one hashtag: #OscarsSoWhite. Considering how union Hollywood is, a logical question becomes, “What can Hollywood unions do to promote more diversity, both racially and with respect to gender?”

Jessica Ogilvie, a writer at LA Weekly, has written an excellent primer on the topic. Here are the major points:

•    Promoting diversity can be a double-edged sword. Advocating for one group can be seen as advocating against another, but on the other hand having whole groups that are left out is also damaging.

•    Film industry unions are unique in that they represent workers who aren’t actively working (for example, screenwriters in between jobs). Because currently-unemployed workers often have fewer legal rights when it comes to discrimination suits groups that are under-employed are, by default, typically worse off when it comes to legal matters.

•    Hollywood is an intensely competitive industry. Many workers spend years or even decades trying to “make it” and are therefore protective of their status once they achieve it. Therefore, executives – most of whom “came up” in an era when white men were even more dominant in the management-level workplace than today – wield immense power and are often not prone to quick or drastic change.

As the ongoing #OscarsSoWhite campaign unfolds, we here at Labor 411 support all the union sisters and brothers working in front of and behind the camera, as well as those who aspire to leadership roles that have been non-existent or few and far between.

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