New York, NY — Patricia White, president of New York City IATSE Theatrical Union Local 764, has a long history with the
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, as well as her early beginnings working in the industry. LaborPress recently caught up with White to learn more about her remarkable career.
Additionally serving as the union’s Director of Education and Training, and International Trustee, White notes that “764 represents all the people who work backstage in Broadway, opera, ballet, Radio City, Brooklyn Academy of Music, live events in New York City, and all of the motion picture costumers for movies and TV in New York City. We have about 1,500 members. We also represent the people who sew costumes in shops, like the Met Opera shop, the NYC Ballet shop. These shops custom-make costumes for particular theatres and projects. We also represent Child Actor Guardians, guardians for those performers under age 16, on Broadway.”
As for her role at the International, White says she “does a lot of work administering the union’s education and training programs– there are approximately 370 Local unions in the U.S. and Canada.” She works on the administration and creation of the education and training programs, which includes leadership education for the local union officers and members, craft skills and safety training for union officers and members, and student outreach to high schools and colleges “so the future workforce understands what the career possibilities are in the entertainment industry and how to prepare for them.” White adds, “Anything you want to do, you can do it in show business.”
White herself started as a wardrobe worker, which she calls “my first love,” in 1985. She was a Star Dresser on Broadway, then worked in soap operas, as a Supervisor on As the World Turns, and a Day Player for the Guiding Light. She also worked in modern dance, as well as feature films. In 1995 she was asked to be on a negotiating committee for Local 764, something she values to this day. “You need to ask people [to become involved]; it’s important for union leaders to ask people and give them a chance.” From there, she went on to being on the bargaining committee, then was elected to the Executive Board, then became a Vice President, and then, her current position as President, in 2001.
An accomplishment of which she is proudest – stressing “I didn’t do it alone”- is that, “764 is very democratic, completely transparent, and we really make every effort to include the rank and file members in important decisions.” Also, she cites the diversity of the local as a plus: “70% are female, and we have all races, religions, ages and backgrounds. The oldest working member has been in the union for over 60 years, the youngest members are 21. We are LGBTQ friendly. The people in the local can be who they are.” At the International, she says, “I’ve been able to help other women and young people succeed.” She cites other officers on her team as outstanding, “a bunch of people who came together to create a culture of continuous learning and education in the union – [International President] Matt Loeb had a vision for education and training and I’m really proud that when he pitched it to me I was able to hit the ball.”
Going forward, White says, “I also serve on the Executive Council of the NYC Central Labor Council. I am looking forward to connecting IATSE and the New York City locals more and more with the larger labor movement in New York, and to raising up the next generation of workers and leaders.”