Playhouse Square and CIFF accused of excluding union projectionists from film festival

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A labor dispute plays out in screening rooms as the Cleveland International Film Festival moves to theaters in Playhouse Square.

Unionized workers will not operate the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) projectors from March 30 to April 9 in Playhouse Square due to a possible loophole in a collective bargaining agreement, according to the union representing them.

The festival will instead use normal Playhouse Square ushers, concession workers, ticketing staff and even the union sound crew, but not the unionized projectionist who does the work, president John Galinac said on Wednesday. of the union that represents them.

“The only person who is locked out is the Local 160 projectionist,” Galinac said. “They’re not even bringing in extra ushers.”

A CIFF spokesperson, contacted by, said the organization had no statement and directed questions to Playhouse Square. A reporter contacted Playhouse Square for comment.

The International Association of Theater Employees Local 160 has a contract with Playhouse Square, Galinac said. When shows need a projectionist, they call in a union member to work on the event.

But Playhouse Square tells Galinac and North Shore AFL-CIO chief Dan O’Malley that Playhouse Square isn’t putting on a show; it’s just letting the film festival use the space.

CIFF has been held at Tower City Cinemas in the past, which was unorganized at the time of the last festival in 2019. The last two festivals were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

O’Malley said Playhouse Square refused to negotiate on the issue. And he said film festival officials had not returned phone calls or spoken with the union – which Playhouse Square, he said, advised CIFF to do.

Galinac said the festival would have represented around 12 days of work for union members. They usually work at Playhouse Square on request.

He said CIFF rented equipment and used non-union workers from the same rental company.

“The idea that they will be forced out of their own workspace and hand over their craft to non-unionized workers goes against the fundamental principles of the labor movement – ​​principles that we know are widely shared in this proud Union. Town,” O’Malley said in a statement.

O’Malley said the union went public with the dispute on Wednesday because they had been trying to negotiate with Playhouse Square for a long time.

“Hopefully it can be resolved, but the ball is in their court,” O’Malley said.

Darcy J. Skinner