Focus on Eileen Macdonald, IATSE
So many CLUW members are highly accomplished in their union careers. We believe that how they got there, as well as lessons they learned along the way can provide valuable information for union women coming behind them – no matter what their union is. Hence, this column – the first of an ongoing series of interviews with our members. We hope you find this column interesting and informative and we hope that you not only let us know what you think about it by writing to us at: CLUW@CLUW.org – but that you also provide us with suggestions for a future interview, including details of why that person is deserving to be featured.
Eileen Macdonald is a Local One IATSE stagehand and works on Broadway as a sound engineer in the historically male-dominated field of show business. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Theater and spent many years touring Broadway shows.
In 2011, Eileen founded the Local One Sisters Committee, whose mission is to mentor members, encourage union involvement, and support women coping with the challenges of a non-traditional job. This committee has given women stagehands a voice in the local and has encouraged women in other locals to form committees.
After attending the Northeast Union Women's Summer School, Eileen was inspired to return to college. She completed a Certificate in Labor Relations from the School of Professional Studies/CUNY.
Last year Eileen was appointed the first woman to represent Local One on the NYC Central Labor Council. In May 2016, she was elected to the Local One Executive Board as a Trustee. Only one other woman has served on the Executive Board in the Local's 130-year history and that was over thirty years ago.
Eileen Macdonald, IATSE
1. What was your path to becoming a sound engineer?
We always had music in the house as a kid. My sisters and I sang at school and Mom played the piano. When I got to college and decided I didn't want to perform, sound was a natural fit. I had good years from all that training and I could talk to the performers in a way that they understood. And vice versa.
2. Where did IATSE come in?
I was in a singing group in junior college and we were recorded occasionally. Fast forward a few years, I was studying theater in San Diego and went to see a show in Tahoe. I stopped by the sound console to take a peek and the engineer recognized me from that group! He had been the recording engineer and was thrilled I was studying sound. He told me to come back the following summer for a crew job. I ended up doing an apprenticeship and got my union card before I graduated college!
3. Did you have a union mentor?
I had many mentors but mostly for the craft I was working, I always had some of the "old guys" telling me about the union but no one really paid much attention until I had a lousy boss. It was through trying to keep my own job that I discovered the power of unions. The one man I went to for advice about that became my mentor. He got me onto committees and helped me get through my labor studies classes too.
4. What got you to decide to be active in the union?
The Broadway strike in 2007. When the employers wanted to gut our health insurance and working conditions, we hit the street.
5. How did you go about that?
I started showing up for union meetings and talking with other members. I attended my first Union Women Summer School and it was life changing!
6. Were there road blocks you can share...and how did you "get around" them?
It is very difficult being a woman in our field. All of the leadership is male and most of the bosses. The only way I got around anything was to keep showing up.
7. Where did CLUW fit in?
After several years attending the Union Women Summer School, I finally decided to sign up for CLUW. It opened a new world for me and I have made some beautiful and lasting friendships. The support network is incredible and having access to such talented and dedicated women is priceless.
8. Tell us about the creation and growth of the Sisters Committee
After my second Summer School and asking questions of about 200 women, I finally had the right words put together to make the request. Of the 11 members on the Board, actually only two of them voted yes. Our President then had the foresight and decided to form the committee anyway and appoint me the Chair. (Careful what you wish for!) We started out as the Women's Committee but found so many members felt so threatened! It was crazy! We took a step back and changed the name to Sisters Committee. We are not your mother or your wife, we are your sisters! It went a long way smoothing the edges and the idea of brothers and sisters seemed to solidify.
9. Is there one piece of advice you'd like to share with union women?
Don't give up. Be pleasant but be persistent!
10. Any mentors, mentees today? What does that entail????
The funny thing about mentoring is it just starts to happen. Your friends ask if they can put someone in touch with you. Your co-workers pick up the phone and call when they have a problem. The beautiful thing for me is having created a space where that can happen. Our Sisters Committee has given us a peer-to-peer environment, as well as a place where we can encourage the women after us to keep reaching back. We don't always agree on how to make that happen but we all feel great to be a part of it!
Regarding my mentor, I continue to have a fantastic relationship with the one man who has believed in me since the beginning of my union life. He stepped down from the Executive Board this year and by doing so, opened a door for me to get elected. He nominated me and helped me with my campaign and he continues to guide me now that I am an officer.
Want to learn more about becoming a member of IATSE?
Want to become involved in CLUW’s Women in Non-Traditional Work Committee open to all CLUW members?
Send us a message about your interest at CLUW@cluw.org and we will connect you.
Page Last Updated: Jan 27, 2017 (10:34:32)