LOS ANGELES (May 04, 2011) — The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO – a national union of more than 70,000 professional performers, recording artists and broadcasters – today announced that John Hilsman has been hired to serve as Local Executive Director of the AFTRA Pittsburgh Local. Hilsman will also supervise operations of the AFTRA Tri-State Local which is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, and serves AFTRA members working in Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and parts of Ohio (Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton). He starts his new position on May 9.
Hilsman succeeds John Haer, who is retiring after more than ten years of service with AFTRA, and will serve as lead negotiator for the union's contracts covering television and radio stations in the region. In addition, Hilsman will oversee the work of the AFTRA Pittsburgh and Tri-State offices with respect to freelance contracts such as local commercials, non-broadcast/industrial and television programs. He will be responsible for enhancing AFTRA’s relationships with the community of talent agents and representatives in the Pittsburgh and Tri-State areas and for coordinating both Locals’ organizing initiatives to increase work opportunities for AFTRA members living and working in the Midwest.
“John Hilsman knows that proactive and consistent grassroots involvement of members is the key to success in contract negotiations, organizing new work and anticipating and responding to the rapid changes in the entertainment and media industries,” said AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth. “I am deeply appreciative to John Haer for his years of service and his continued work with us to ensure a smooth transition. We are thrilled to welcome John Hilsman, who brings 25 years of experience in the labor movement, to the AFTRA staff.”
AFTRA Pittsburgh Local President Paul Martino, who is an anchor/reporter for Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV, praised Hilsman saying: “AFTRA Pittsburgh is excited to begin a new chapter in our long history with the hiring of John Hilsman. John was the choice of the Local's executive committee after a long and exhaustive search, and we were lucky to find him. We are anxious for John to begin his new duties with AFTRA.”
Denise Jaeckel, AFTRA Tri-State Local President observed: “Perseverance, determination and a sense-of-humor – these are all qualities that John has that will serve him well when working with the Tri-State-area entertainment and media industries."
“I look forward to working with the members and leadership of the Pittsburgh and Tri-State Locals to build a stronger union and defend the interests of AFTRA members,” said Hilsman. “The only thing certain about these challenging times is that we are in a better position facing those challenges together as a union, rather than as isolated individuals.”
Hilsman comes to AFTRA from his former position as Central Regional Director of the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, based in Miami Beach, Fla, where he was responsible for all activities of the union representing motion picture and television camera crews in a 22 state area. During his tenure at ICG, he planned and implemented successful contract negotiations, strikes, training programs, community outreach and legislative lobbying efforts. Prior to that, Hilsman worked as an Administrative Organizer with SEIU Local 1199P, Healthcare Workers, in Western Pennsylvania where he developed and implemented contract campaigns in nine Pittsburgh-area hospitals and nursing homes. He worked as a Letter Carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, during which time he served as Local President of the National Association of Letter Carriers. From 1996 to 1998, Hilsman has worked an employment law attorney in the Washington, D.C.-area. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the Georgetown University Law Center, and a Bachelor’s degree is from West Virginia University in Morgantown, W. Va.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, are the people who entertain and inform America. In 32 Locals across the country, AFTRA members work as actors, broadcasters, singers, dancers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audio books, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet and other digital media. The 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists of AFTRA are working together to protect and improve their jobs, lives, and communities in the 21st century. From new art forms to new technology, AFTRA members embrace change in their work and craft to enhance American culture and society.