INTERNATIONAL NEWS: Publicists worried over union merger

LOS ANGELES: Hollywood's only PR union has folded into another

entertainment industry union, leaving some members concerned about how

their interests will be represented in the new structure, and how the

merger was handled.



The Publicists Guild of America, known as Local 818 of the International

Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE), merged its 400

active members and 900 total members with the International

Cinematographers Union (Local 600 of the IATSE), effective January

1.



Local 600 has about 4,500 members across the country, leaving some of

818's much smaller constituency questioning how the larger guild will

protect publicists' interests. Furthermore, some question if the two

disparate professions represented - camera professionals and

entertainment publicists - make a harmonious merger.



"We're afraid we will get swallowed up," lamented one 818 member. "When

you merge 400 people into a guild of 4,500, essentially that guild

disappears."



The Publicists Guild was founded in 1955. The union represents mostly

studio publicists and unit publicists, who handle on-set PR.



Bruce Doering, national executive director of the cinematographers'

union, countered fears of reduced representation by pointing to the

union's successful history of mergers, and promising the organization's

commitment to serve all members.



Local 600 was formed in 1996 as a result of the successful merger of

three smaller unions. But some 818 members have complained that they

were not properly consulted before the decision.



The Publicists Guild's business agent, Marlene Mat-taschiam, said those

charges were unfair, pointing out that members were notified of a

feasibility study regarding the merger in October, and were invited to

attend a subsequent meeting on the matter.



Mattaschiam confirmed that 818 membership would have representation on

the Cinematographer's national board, and that Publicists Guild staff

would be moving into the 600's office later this month.



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