On the Set

ILR students visit “The Daily Show” and “Saturday Night Live”
Cornell University: Worker Institute: News: On the Set
Monday, February 11, 2013

Nine ILR students were part of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" audience chanting "Jon, Jon, Jon" during a taping of an opening segment this week.

The Cornellians attended as part of ILR's Winter Intersession Program (WISP), an ILR program that provides students with work-related experiences during the winter break. The Worker Institute's workplace tours, which focused on television and film this year, gave students an opportunity to learn about the working conditions and labor relations issues in the industry.

Seats for ILR students at the "The Daily Show" taping were arranged by John Amman MS '90, who represents unionized camera operators at IATSE Local 600. Students met with Amman and Alan Meyer from Stagehands Local 1 this week at IATSE's headquarters.

"The arts and entertainment industry is a highly unionized segment on every level, from actors to directors to writers," Amman said.

Concerns of their members, Amman and Meyer said, include safe working conditions, health insurance and pay. They also outlined trends.

"Camera work is still very labor intensive.Technological changes have not created less work in our industry and in some cases, it has created more. Our membership has grown by 25 percent in the past 10 years," Amman said. His union represents more than 7,000 cinematographers, photographers, digital imaging technicians and other technical employees in the U.S. and Canada.

The technical employees at "The Daily Show" ratified their first collective bargaining agreement in 2012.

In comparison to other shows, "The Daily Show" was relatively easy to organize because many camera operators recognized that unionization would lead to health care and pension benefits, Amman said. Writers and stagehands on the show are also represented by unions.

Students also met with show writer Zhubin Parang, recently elected to the Writers Guild of America East board.

This week, students also visited Silvercup Studios, home to the production of "Girls," "Person of Interest" and a new ABC show, "The Black Box." Students toured "The Black Box" set and watched taping of episode six. The show is scheduled to air this year.

During a "Saturday Night Live" studio tour, students spoke with the vice president of labor relations at NBC and the heads of the show's carpentry and scenic painting departments. "The representatives from Local 1 IATSE, the United Scenic Artists and the vice president of labor relations at NBC Studios emphasized the importance of a close, positive relationship between labor and management in order to ensure successful and smooth operations," said Lucas Colbert-Carreiro '15.

The three-day Winter Intersession Program was organized by the Worker Institute's Ken Margolies. "The Worker Institute and the ILR School have a long history of working with unions in the arts and entertainment industry.Lois Gray and Maria Figueroa have done groundbreaking research in the industry.Many leaders in the industry have also participated in ILR's training and education programs," Margolies said.

"The purpose of the tours, now it its fourth year in New York City, is to provide students with an opportunity to learn more about unions, the workplace and potential careers," Margolies said. Past tours in New York City have included the New York Metropolitan Opera, The American Museum of Natural History and Lincoln Center.

Raquel Gonoretzky '15 said, "I loved seeing and hearing about the things we learn in our ILR classes happening out in 'the real world.'"

Ryan Burns '16 said, "A lot of what we saw and heard gave me great insight into the field of labor relations."

"The tours were extremely relevant to my interests because of how intertwined unions are with the law. I now feel more confident that I would like to work in law, and more specifically, possibly in the area of employment or labor law," he said.