Victory For Somerville Projectionists!!

'Pissed Off Projectionists' Declare Victory Over Somerville Theatre

After having been locked-out for over ten weeks, projectionists at the Somerville Theatre have emerged victorious in their struggle for union recognition. The management has agreed to voluntarily recognize the union, sign a fair contract, and pay full back wages to all locked-out employees. Although this was a modest struggle in and of itself, we see it as a significant victory for young, exploited and pissed off workers everywhere.


At the time we struck for union recognition, projectionists were paid minimum wage ($6.75/hr), were not offered benefits, and worked in an unhealthy and undemocratic environment. Under the current two-year contract, the starting wage for projectionists is now in accordance with (and fixed to) the Somerville Living Wage Ordinance (currently $9.55/hr), which is a 40% increase; all full-time employees will be offered health benefits and vacation; and most importantly, the Somerville Theatre is now a 'union shop' for projectionists, which allows for more control over the work environment by the workers themselves and preference for hiring new employees in the hands of the union.

Although this was a clear victory, it was a victory that came at a price. It became clear during the lock-out that the management of the Somerville Theatre did not want some of us to return to work specifically because of our political beliefs. Rather than further stall the contract negotiations, we agreed to voluntarily step aside and be replaced by other union projectionists in order to ensure a speedy resolution that would benefit all. In exchange we will have the opportunity to work in other Boston-area theaters where projectionists are organized through IATSE.


We hope that our struggle is an inspiration to other workers, particularly younger workers just beginning to understand their exploitation at the hands of their bosses. Our struggle was won primarily through direct action and community pressure. Although we did indeed file for an election with the National Labor Relations Board, from the beginning of our campaign we had no faith in State-mediation. We felt that the whole NLRB process played into the hands of the bosses and government bureaucrats, and effectively removed the class struggle from off the streets and out of the hands of the workers and confined it to the court rooms of the State.

In the end it was not through the NLRB that we gained union recognition, but through a sustained campaign of public pressure and direct action. We were successful in utilizing tactics and strategies such as economic strikes, informational pickets, and publicity campaigns while simultaneously relying on the pressure from the community (in the form of boycotts, rallies, and phone actions) to win this struggle. We think we were successful in proving that, as workers, our greatest strengths are in the refusal of our labor and our ability to organize effective resistance that goes beyond the workplace and into the community.


Absolutely! Through out the dispute at the Somerville Theatre, there have been attempts by Mel’s lawyer to 'red bait' certain projectionists by publicizing the fact that some of us are anarchists. Well, as one trade unionist who walked our picket line a few times eloquently stated: "Every workplace could use a few anarchists to ensure the boss takes a good ass-kicking every now and then." We couldn't agree more. Politics aside, the fact of the matter was that we were being exploited by a wealthy boss, and no amount of 'red baiting' changed this fact in most people's eyes. As for the actual politics in question, those of us who do identify as anarchists have been up front about it and have no problem defending out beliefs. We would like to see a society in which the needs of people are valued over profits, and exploitative bosses are a thing of the past. However, we are not hopeless dreamers. We recognize we are a far way off from this sort of society, and in the meantime we need to build power in our communities and workplaces and work towards class victories that directly benefit people's lives.


One of the most inspiring aspects of this struggle has been the wide support we have received from trade unionists, activist groups and members of the surrounding community. Thanks to fellow unionists from SEIU, UE, CWA,
IBEW, IWW, AFA, AFSCME, Teamsters, Greater Boston Central Labor Council, and our own union IATSE; also activist groups such as NEFAC, BAAM!, Jobs With Justice, Somerville Greens, and the Student Labor Action Project; and lastly, a very special thanks goes out to all the Somerville residents who supported us, everyone who made a phone call (or ten) on our behalf, and anyone else who may have helped our campaign that we forgot to mention.


The struggle at the Somerville Theatre may have come to a close, but there are other labor disputes heating up around the city. At this moment, the union contracts covering thousands of Boston-area workers at Verizon are set to expire. Up to this point negotiations have been unsuccessful and the possibility for an East Coast strike is very likely. We hope that everyone who has supported us though out our struggle will also support this important strike if it does occur, and defend workers' right to job security and health benefits. Further information on the impending Verizon strike can be found at:

Solidarity is our greatest weapon for a better future!

In Struggle,
Pissed Off Projectionists