A Brief History of Theatrical Wardrobe Union Local 784, I.A.T.S.E.
On December 6, 1933, a charter was granted by the American Federation of Labor (the A.F. of L.) to organize the Theatrical Attendants Union Local 19102 in San Francisco. This was a mixed local comprising ushers, box office cashiers, ticket takers and wardrobe personnel. This “B” local was soon taken into the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (A “B” local is a special department local, in this instance box office or backstage.)
The San Francisco International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1939 – 1940 provided a great opportunity to recruit new members. The war years 1941 – 1945 also saw a boom in theatrical productions in San Francisco.
Members Inez Hall and Ruth Conley, among others, saw an opportunity to form an independent wardrobe local. This charter was granted February 13, 1945 by the International President Richard Walsh and it listed twenty-two members.
The first general meeting for Local 784 was held March 7, 1945. The first Constitution and By-Laws were unanimously approved. The first President of the local was Al Maas who served from 1945 until 1962, and the first Business Agent was Bill Sutherland who served from 1945 until 1974.
The hourly and show rates were set on a yearly basis by vote of the membership and rate cards were then published. These rates applied to all employers. By the 1970’s when Ada Philpot became Business Agent, this system had evolved to negotiated contracts with individual employers that allowed for more specific rates and conditions tailored to each venue. “Outside” rate sheets for non-specific venues were still set by the vote of the membership. Industrial and product demonstration shows had rates and conditions that mirrored entertainment industry practices nationwide.
Business Agent Philpot, as well as Business Agents Dorothy Priest in Los Angeles and Fredda Briant in New York, became very powerful and pushed the theatrical wardrobe locals to prominence in the International.
1982 – The Local established a Health and Welfare Trust Fund and began negotiating employer paid health insurance benefits into its contracts.
1985 – Local 784 negotiated Work Fees deductions from paychecks paid automatically to the Local.
1986 – A Constitutional Amendment increased the Executive Board from three Vice Presidents to five.
1986 – The Local established an Apprentice Board to improve and standardize knowledge and skills. The program eventually became a model for many wardrobe locals throughout the International.
1986 – A Constitutional Amendment established the Finance/Audit Committee to oversee the Local’s investments and assure legal compliance.
1988 – A video about Local 784 and its apprentice program was produced.
1989 – The Union office relocated from Jones Street to larger quarters in the Orpheum Theatre building.
1989 – Ada Philpot stepped down as Business Agent but remained an organizer and Trustee for the International. Andrea Cooper became Business Agent.
1990 – Anne Polland was elected Business Agent.
1990 – A Life insurance policy benefit, paid by the Local, was instituted for all members of Local 784.
1995 – Local 784 celebrated its 50th Anniversary.
1996 – Al Lorente, longtime Secretary of the Local, retired.
1999 – Ada Philpot passed away.
At the turn of the twenty-first century, Local 784 had over 150 workers on its roster. But the Local still only held eight negotiated contracts and three rate sheets which were used with about 20 casual employers.
In the fall of 2001, Anne Polland passed away unexpectedly. Assistant Business Agent Mark Saladino, was appointed Acting Business Agent, and elected to that office commencing January 2002. Brother Saladino was succeeded by Sister Nancy Foreman in November 2003 followed by Brother David Besser, who had been Call Steward for 3 years, in 2005.
2005 – Restructuring of Union Officer positions created the positions of Secretary-Treasurer and Recording Secretary. Designated duties were given to the Vice Presidents including Committee Chairmanships . Also in 2005, Local 784 began working with representatives from the International. That work led to more streamlined internal operations as well as major improvements in the Local’s contracts, including Union Security language, real Grievance & Arbitration mechanisms and Just Cause provisions regarding termination of employees.
2006 – Local 784 was not successful in joining the Area Standards Agreement for motion picture, but was awarded jurisdiction for Motion Picture/Television and Commercial work throughout the Bay Area.
2007 – Local 784 was included in the national commercial agreement between the IATSE and the AICP (Association of Commercial Producers).
2009 – Local 784 continued to work with the International and was successful in getting 9 casual employers who had been using the Local’s rate sheet to sign term contract agreements, meaning those employers were legally bound to use union workers, pay benefits and abide by the same Union Security, Grievance and Just Cause provisions as other employers.
2010 – Local 784’s joins the Entertainment Industry Flex Plan for member health insurance benefits and the Local’s Health Fund is dissolved.
2011 – Local 784’s first full-time Business Agent, Sister Andrea Pelous, was sworn into office. Representation and policing of the Local’s jurisdiction continued to improve dramatically, and motion picture/television contracts moved closer to the Area Standards Agreement.
As the Local continues to grow and change it has maintained its reputation of excellence and quality nationwide. Representing wardrobe workers/costumers for plays, musicals, opera, ballet, rock concerts, industrial shows, motion picture and commercials, has created a diverse and challenging past, present and future for Theatrical Wardrobe Union Local 784 I.A.T.S.E.