Babies In The Industry

We try this again. The subject is babies in the Industry. I think you’ll find it amazing. Let me first say, forty years ago there were never any problems. Sixty years ago, yes. The Industry developed work rules that worked for twenty-five years… then the changes began. In 1986 wholesale changes to the work rules were instituted by the Department of Labor.. and then the fun began.

The best thing to do is first review the “latest” Dept. of Labor regs (Note: these are available in these pages). Notice the age divisions. NO BABY can work from their birth day to fifteen days… for obvious reasons. They are just too fragile for modern show business.

On one production they wanted to simulate a live birth, so what did they do? The Producers went out and found a cooperative set of parents whom God had given twins… EIGHT WEEKS PREMATURE. On the infants’ thirty day birthday (which was still short of their gestation due date) they were brought into the studio, smeared with cream cheese and acidic jam, thrust in front of the cameras in an operating room and Presto, due to their tiny size, a “simulated live birth” was recreated.

The risk to these twins was very real; the eyes, the lungs, even the immune system are not yet ready for this kind of exposure.

For the little ones, fifteen days to 6 months, a teacher / welfare worker and a Nurse are always on hand. The babies get their time in (see the 20 minute limit?) THIRTY SECONDS AT A TIME.

For most.. shots and most scenes the work rules are observed. The narrow windows in which babies are allowed to work (9:30 to 1130am, then 2:30 to 4:30pm) are inconvenient, but most companies can comply. When they need a different window that request, in writing, must go to Labor forty eight hours in advance again no big burden since production is laid out well in advance.

The trouble is the Teachers who CLAIM they have the right to alter the work hours. They do not! In ’86 the Teachers published “the Blue Book” citing laws that do not exist and exemptions that do not exist.

AND BABIES WERE SUDDENLY WORKING AT ODD HOURS… for the convenience (usually) of the Stars and/or the Producers. Then came what I call THE TWINS GAME. In Law, twins are not a single entity, but two distinct individuals. The movie business decided to call twins as ONE.

In olden times you hired twins in case one baby was cranky. Simple as hell. The Law, remember, calls for a separate adult guardian for each child. So, two babies showed up at 9:30 and the work got done with one baby or the other.

Then the Hollywood Way entered the fray. The first baby of twins was called at 9:30 am, the second baby given a Will Notify.. but of course that second baby showed up with the first. With the second baby “off the clock”, the Producers effectively doubled the infants’ time on the set or under their control. Bad news. Illegal. But the Producers got away with it by threatening uncooperative Teachers with retaliation… and the Teachers caved in.. instead of fighting for the children.

Remember, California has certified seven hundred new non-union Teachers in the past nine years! Seven hundred for fewer than one hundred jobs. Doesn’t take a genius to figure this out.

This happened with triplets, too… much to this industry’s shame.

It became standard practice for babies to be at the studio for up to seven hours. (This just happened again recently in a case in which I intervened. This case is currently under the Dept. of Labor’s review.)

It is important to remember that the purpose of having twins was “interchangability,” not to expand the work hours. Only in Hollywood.

The instant “A Minor Consideration” took on this battle (because the Teachers didn’t have the stomach for it) we allied ourselves with the Nurses (bless my Rana, head of Studio First Aid). I hollered loud and long and threatened the hell out of all the major studios. Rana’s nurses developed Baby Call Requirements and I drew a line in the sand. “Follow the rules or I will file legal action to rescind your Certificate of Eligibility to Employ Minors.”

That’s at the root. The Producer (or studio) is granted a permit to employ minors, and they pledge to follow the rules. Imagine the dust up if a studio lost that permit!!!!) That’s my real power…and something even SAG has been unwilling to use as a threat. I have no such qualms, of course.

We have now gone “Back to the Future,” returning to the way it was forty years ago. If you want twins they will have separate calls. No more Will Notify or Stand By. Each baby will have an adult. In cases where there isn’t a second adult guardian a second nurse will be employed. If a baby comes on the lot it is “on the clock.

What good are these limits is one baby works four hours while its sibling works two? You see there can be no overtime BECAUSE OVERTIME IS ILLEGAL!

My position is quite plain and well within the law and the whole concept of labor unions, namely, when no overtime compensation is possible there will be no overtime. Period. End of subject.

As even the Department or Labor says, “No one… at any time or under any circumstances… has the authority to alter the laws or regulations, except as granted by LC 11760 (g) ((that’s the forty eight hour notice to change the availability window which has nothing to do with expanded hours)).

Parents don’t know the rules they are breaking. The Teachers do, and so do the Producers. They are not going to get away with it any more.

Interestingly, there are two pay scales for babies. First, as an on-camera performer. That’s when the baby is an integral part of the scene. The second pay level is as an extra.. significantly less… and is meant for background performers. In most disputes… and there have been a few in the Commercial field… the Guild agitates for the higher pay rate when a baby is featured in a shot and the Producers (I’m told) almost always comply. I haven’t had to deal with that yet, but for now I’ll take the word of the SAG Legal Department.

The current problems have to do with the Studio Teachers (who are far better let me hasten to add, than most of their non-union counterparts. The second enclosure is copied from their “Blue Book” and the arrow marks the trouble spot. LC 1391 NO LONGER EXISTS. No combination of Teacher/Parent can change the rules.

When Teachers claim this “right”.. and in the field they very well might … I have pleaded with them to wield power that LIMITS, HALTS or PREVENTS. If they would do that I would be silent as a church mouse (do we still have those?).

What I’m getting, however, is a Studio Teacher (who should know better as a union member) who makes a ruling in the field that EXPANDS my baby’s work day.


This isn’t rocket science, but for some reason Teachers, faced with a decision, frequently manage to get it wrong.

Could it be because THEY can get overtime? Hmmmmmmmm?

On the older infants.. age 6 months to 2 years.. we are having fewer problems, except for this Twin and Triplets business of Will Notify Calls that bring one or another infant onto the work site or under the Producer’s control (for example, a baby can’t be “off the clock” if it’s waiting in the motor home). I’m having success reminding people that twins and triplets are there for their “look-alike-ness” (what a word) NOT for anyone’s convenience. This is the age when kids are really cute.. thus employable … and swapping infants this age is ordinary practice with little abuse. It’s as if the parents now know better.

Then we come to the 2 years of 6 years category.. and there’s a lot of fudging going on by parents and agents lying about the children’s age: At the lower end claiming to be Over Two.. and out the other end claiming to be Over Six (extra hours, don’t you know).

We can get at this problem by putting Baby Wranglers and Baby Agents on notice that they better have proof of age. They have to anyway because of the T-9 regulations about employability.. you know, Social Security card, proof of citizenship, etc. The Documentation… everything from the basic Certificate of Eligibility to Employ to the Social Security number… is supposed to be on hand and available for inspection, and the Young Performers Committee (meaning me and “A Minor Consideration”) is demanding that the rules be followed.

And who, publicly, can oppose us?

Remember what I told you This is a strong horse we’re riding, We can’t lose.

First, because we’re right.

Secondly, because no one dares to oppose us.

I hope this helps with the baby business.

One thought on “Babies In The Industry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *