San Diego Rhino Workers Unite!

We’re a group of Rhino San Diego co-workers coming together to seek union representation with the backing of IATSE. We’re audio and visual technicians, lighting technicians and stage riggers making live events happen in venues across San Diego, including:

  • Petco Park
  • North Island Credit Union Amphitheater
  • Viejas Arena
  • And more!

Without a union, there’s no established process for us to start a conversation with Rhino management about improving working conditions across the board, from competitive and transparent pay, health and retirement benefits, access to top-tier education and training, and more.

But with a union, we’d be able to constructively negotiate these topics with Rhino in a contract that covers all of us. Unionizing is the only way we can open that dialogue in the first place.

Issues a union can help address:

As business booms while the cost of living explodes in our city, we not only deserve pay that reflects our contributions, skill and value, but also keeps pace with inflation.

Rhino’s pay for stagehands and riggers are low compared to what’s standard in other, similar-sized markets in California. For example, the minimum hourly rates for Elton John’s show at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles (11/17 – 11/20) under an IATSE Contract (before adding 29% benefit contributions) were:

  • Crew Rate: $43.26/hr
  • Rigger Rate: 52.53/hr
  • Lead Rigger Rate: $59.74/hr 

The approach of negotiating as a group works. According to the Economic Policy Institute, generally, workers covered by a union contract earn 11.2% more when compared with non-union workers in the same industries.

It’s no wonder according to Gallup, approval of Labor Unions in the US is 71%, the highest support level since 1965.

If we join together, we’d be in a better position to negotiate wage increases too.

We and IATSE share the common goal of improving our economic standards while maintaining stability in San Diego’s live events market, and therefore job security is one of our major priorities.

Without a union, you’re disposable…

Without a union, we can be fired or disciplined at any time for any reason or no reason at all, which is also called being an “at-will employee.”

But with a union contract, we can codify a list of specific reasons a worker could be fired, also called “just cause.”

With this clause in a contract, if management wants to terminate you, they must prove their motive to your representation at the union.

We also deserve strong job security and access to work in any future transition towards being union members, and IATSE agrees. The union has officially confirmed:

  1. The purpose of Local 122’s referral system is to fill jobs that otherwise would be empty, like if someone calls out sick or several large productions come to SD at once.

  2. The union will not replace Rhino Workers with other IATSE workers, including through referrals. Some members may be referred to Rhino jobs in the event those productions are short-staffed, but these workers will generally be in addition to the present Rhino workforce.

  3. Rhino employees will have access to additional additional work opportunities for other productions and venues under IATSE agreements through IATSE Local 122’s referral system.

We deserve the strong employer funded healthcare and retirement benefits necessary for a sustainable career in this demanding industry. Without a union, right now our healthcare benefits and who qualifies for them are up to management’s sole discretion. We deserve more than the bare minimum.

Local 122’s health plans are built for our business. Dozens of employers with union contracts pay into IATSE Local 122’s healthcare plan, and the plan moves with you from employer to employer. That means you can take additional work for other employers under the Local’s contracts, and the hours you bank at both Rhino and the other union jobs both count towards qualifying. 

Local 122’s multi-employer retirement plans work similarly, with several employers’ contributing to the fund as dictated in contracts IATSE negotiates. With so many employers paying into the pension and a surge in the number of upcoming live events across the country, the plan is extremely well-funded and thousands of IATSE retirees can count on their checks arriving each month. If we join together, one day that can be us.  

To keep up in our fast paced, rapidly evolving industry, access to top-tier education and training opportunities are key. IATSE does everything it can to ensure the workers it represents are “the best, most advanced, and highly-skilled workforce in the arts, media, and entertainment industries.”

If we vote union yes, we’d gain access to the union’s extensive network of partnerships and training, including:

The best part is, gaining access to these training opportunities doesn’t rule out or prevent Rhino from providing us with training on its own accord. 

As co-workers, we ARE the union. Every step of the process, from unionizing, negotiating, and eventually ratifying a contract in collaboration with Rhino’s management depend on our participation and input as workers. This vote will be the first of many opportunities to amplify our voices at work through the democratic process.

Once the unionization vote passes, Rhino’s management would be legally required to negotiate with our union in good faith. In preparation for those talks, IATSE has confirmed:

  1. Our union will negotiate according to our priorities, and IATSE will provide experienced, professional negotiators to help support us in the negotiations process.

  2. We will have the opportunity to democratically choose worker-representatives to form a “bargaining committee”, who will communicate our priorities and even be present at the negotiations table.

  3. Once an agreement has been reached in collaboration between us and Rhino’s management, as newly unionized Rhino workers we get to vote on whether to accept the proposed contract (ratification via secret ballot).

But our participation doesn’t end with ratifying a contract. When the agreement eventually goes into effect, Rhino employees in the unit will be offered full membership in IATSE Local 122 with no vote, test, or initiation fees. As members, we’d gain the right to participate in Local 122’s leadership elections and vote on union business, even including dues.

Frequently Asked Questions

Until we have a contract with Rhino, the answer is zero.

IATSE’s core mission is to improve our standard of living. The union has confirmed there will be zero initiation fees for Rhino workers joining Local 122 through this election, and we do not become full dues-paying members until a contract goes into effect.

The union is a 501(c)5 nonprofit seeking to provide the best possible representation, negotiators, and resources, and to do so union members each contribute a small amount deducted automatically from each paycheck as dues to pay staff and keep things running. These dues are decided democratically by the union’s members, and as a union member you will eventually have the right to participate in those discussions too.

We don’t chip in until we have a contract, and we don’t have to agree to a contract unless it includes meaningful improvements. In other words, the union is essentially representing us for free until we win a contract in collaboration with Rhino’s management, and the pay increases we fight for in that contract are likely to offset any dues contributions.

Our Rights & Union-Busting Tactics

Federal labor law protects us while we unionize. Still, many companies use heavy-handed union-busting tactics because they know that negotiating as a group wins improvements, and the owners have a financial interest in preventing those improvements.

Given that Rhino management has lost in court for violating Federal labor laws in the past, we believe they are likely to use misleading language to confuse Rhino workers into voting against our best interests.

If you experience any of these illegal union-busting tactics from Rhino management, please reach out to Organize@iatse122.org immediately:

  • Closing shop and moving operations to another territory to avoid dealing with a union, or threatening to do so.
  • Retaliating against employees for participating in union activities, including voting in an election (or threatening to do so).
  • Promise additional benefits to employees if they reject the union.
  • Claiming flat-out that the company will not deal with the union.
  • Asking employees whether or not they belong to a union, or have signed a card for union representation. Similarly, asking employees, during job interviews, about their union membership or how they “feel” about unions.
  • Asking employees about union organizers, meetings, etc. Ask employees how they are going to vote in union election.
  • Making anti-union statements and act in a way that might show preference for non-union employees.
  • Making location or schedule transfers based on union affiliations or activities.
  • Threaten workers or coerce them to influence their vote. Threaten a union member through a third party.



Election Information

Rhino workers have come together to seek union representation and now, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is facilitating an official election. If you’ve worked for Rhino San Diego in the past year, a ballot is coming your way in the mail. All votes are anonymous, and only the Labor Board will receive and tally the ballots.

A yes vote is a vote to come together to negotiate improvements as a group.

A no vote is a vote for things to say the same or get worse at under the sole discretion of management.

  • November 9: Ballots are mailed to you.
  • November 16: If you don’t receive your ballot within a week after November 9th, call us at 619-640-0042 so we can work with the labor board on getting your ballot to you. 
  • November 30: The labor board counts the votes. Be sure to mail your vote with enough time before the count to ensure that your voice is heard!

Supervisors and management are not eligible to vote in this election, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to tell you how to vote. The election is by secret ballot, and no one will know how you voted.

They know workers covered by a union contract earn 11.2% more when compared with non-union workers in the same industries (Economic Policy Institute) and U.S. Approval of Labor Unions at Highest Point Since 1965 (Gallup).

Unfortunately, Rhino management’s hard-sell and heavy-handed tactics are because they have a financial interest in preventing us from winning improvements in a union contract.

Click here to download the NLRB’s notice of election, which contains more information regarding election eligibility.


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