VANCOUVER, BC – On February 5, the IATSE issued a charter to the newly-formed Arts and Cultural Workers Union (ACWU), IATSE Local B-778. Charter members of the new Local had already established the Vancouver Artists Labour Union Co-operative (VALU CO-OP), an innovative workers’ co-operative that facilitates fair, flexible, secure, and democratic employment for artists. All workers in VALU CO-OP are members of the ACWU and work under an IATSE agreement. Though Vancouver-based, their charter covers the entire province of British Columbia, and the Local has established units for independent visual artists (including painters, installation artists, and sculptors), media artists, illustrators, photographers, art administrators, art assistants, curators, cultural workers, and tattoo artists.
The group started with four artists looking for change and grew to 20. There are now another 50 artists who have expressed interest in joining the union. On February 23, members held their first election of officers. Jonny Sopotiuk, ACWU President, stated, “The founding members of the Arts and Cultural Workers Union are so incredibly proud to be charter members of an IATSE Local. We know that arts and cultural workers are stronger with the backing of such a powerful and innovative union.” ACWU IATSE Local B-778 has also established long-term goals that include building a portable, extended benefits plan and the creation of an arts workers’ training program.
The new Local is also set up to create customized swag and materials for unions or other progressive organizations. Said ACWU Vice President Cat de Montreuil, “The first project of VALU CO-OP is to establish a social action production studio that is focused on producing ethical materials for unions, social movement campaigns, and not-for-profit organizations. We currently operate a screen printing studio, print shop, and button-making services, with plans to expand to embroidery and art engagement services.” Orders and queries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. She added, “Income precarity, exploitation, and job insecurity have been well-known issues in the art community for some time. As a unionized co-operative, VALU is both practical and radical in how it addresses these problems. I couldn’t be more proud to be a founding member, and of the movement that we are a part of.”