The Academy Awards started as a union-busting sham
Did you know that the creation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the 1920s was part of a deliberate ploy to undermine unionization in American show business?
The facinating story has been detailed elsewhere, but our favourite take is the 2014 Vanity Fair piece by David Thompson. According to Thompson, the MGM studio boss was trying to build a palatial beach house so his family could have somewhere appropriate to spend their summer leisure time. Mayer also wanted to exploit his own in-house studio labour to save time and cut costs for his family project.
In 1926, Mayer’s staff design lead drafted plans for a glamourous beach pad. But there was an inconvenience they would have to contend with:
Thompson goes on to explain that Mayer was soon set on a course of employer-side creativity to manage the potential of more workers demanding union protection.
So the next time you’re at an Oscar viewing party with friends, dare to be the unionist kill joy: The ‘Oscars’ -- and possibly other industry associations that give out awards -- are attempts by rich people to disorganize workers.
This post also appears on rabble.ca