Tales Of Collateral Damage: A Studio Cleaner Laments “Devastating” Loss Of Business, Workers During Ongoing Strike
EXCLUSIVE: For 36 years, Dmitry Tokar’s La Cienega Studio Cleaners has made sure costumes for film and TV projects are fresh and neat as a button by working six days a week, 24 hours a day in Hollywood.
His doors aren’t open for the regular Joe and Janes who need a suit cleaned or a dress steamed. “We are strictly show business,” he says of his North Hollywood location and satellite spots at NBC-Universal and Fox. “We have 12 trucks that do nothing but pick up and deliver to and from sets from all the studios and from all the locations. That’s all we do. You can ask around. We’ve probably one of the biggest in town as far as overnight. We’ve done all the NCISes, as well SWAT, 911: Long Star … you name it. We were doing all the Marvel shows, and not just dry cleaning, but dyeing as well.”
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But not anymore. With the WGA strike about to reach 100 days and the actors on the picket line since July 17, business is down 93 percent at La Cienega — which forced Tokar to recently lay off 17 of his 56 workers. He also moved some of his employees to part-time status.
“There was a lot of crying, a lot of obviously emotions,” laments Tokar. “My employees are not happy because in this industry there’s a lot of overtime. Now I can’t pay them overtime. I’m just keeping them at 40 hours, guaranteed. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to financially go. Everybody needs to eat. Everybody needs to pay their rent.”
Tokar started to see his business stall as early as January, but he never expected to actually hit a wall like this. “This is my third strike,” he says. “During the 2007-08 writers strike we were still working. I mean, we had to lay off a few people but we were still working. I experienced a Teamsters strike before that but there were certain shows that were still filming. It was never to the point it is now, where there’s absolutely nothing. I mean, we are down to one soap opera, two reality shows, and three commercials compared with the 65, 70 shows I used to do a month.“
“I started preparing myself for a strike financially and thought I wasn’t going to lay anybody off,” continues Tokar. “I figured, you know, it’s going to be a month or two, I’ll take a loss, and we’ll move on. I maintained the whole entire crew, every single person for two months. And then in July when the actors walked out and I started noticing there was really no communication, I realized I was not going to be able to maintain the whole crew because I will start running out of money. I will lose my core people, my managers, who have been with me for over 20 years.”
Tokar expects to service a few reality shows in the coming weeks that are covered under the Network Code, but that’s hardly a consolation. He is mostly worried about his oldest son, Nick, who joined his business two years ago. What does the future hold for him?
“I wake up every morning and read your website, hoping that there’s going to be a resolution to the strike,” continues Tokar, who also queried this reporter for updates. “But how can they resolve anything when nobody’s talking? That’s the biggest problem. The longer it’s going to take, more people will struggle. That’s all it is. It’s just a struggle.”
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