Moviegoers attending the premier of the movie Troy at the Carmike Plaza 6 theater in Butte on May 14 were met with a union strike as seven employees staged a walk-out after months of conflict between the union and the theater. The following day, all seven employees were fired. Prior to that mass housecleaning, three other employees had been fired shortly after signing their union cards in April.
Jacquie Helt, executive secretary treasurer of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees No. 427, based in Missoula, and vice president of the Montana AFL-CIO, says the walk-out sought to draw attention to ongoing labor issues—including wrongful terminations, scheduling and seniority issues, harassment and overall disrespect for employees.
The union began its boycott of the theater with the walk-out, and has carried out information pickets every Friday and Saturday since.
Helt says troubles with the Carmike company go back to last December when 13 union employees were fired on the same day. When issues like termination and disciplinary action arise between union members and the theater, the company, by the terms of its contract with the union, must provide documentation regarding employer grievances. But Helt says theater management has “been blowing [the union] off.”
“The first response—to anything—received from the company was on May 10, which was frankly four days before we were set to go out on strike. And it still did not provide us with any of the information we needed.”
Plaza 6 theater Manager John Coppick refused to answer questions regarding the boycott and directed all inquiries to Gary Krannacker, general manager for theater operations of Carmike Cinemas, based in Columbus, Georgia. Krannacker was unable to return calls by press time.
“We believe it is a union-busting attempt,” Helt says. The Plaza 6 is the only unionized Carmike theater in the state. Helt says that during the Montana AFL-CIO state convention taking place on June 24 in Butte, she will submit a resolution demanding a boycott of all Carmike theaters in Montana. The union has also filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, which currently has the case under investigation.