IATSE members say they are ready to shut down Hollywood on a strike – pandemic or not
The reality of an impending Hollywood labor strike is beginning to take hold – one that could halt film and television production in the US and Canada as it resumed after a long, pandemic-fueled shutdown. With an approval vote coming up next weekend among the 13 West Coast residents of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, workers below the line in the guild say they feel a sense of unity.
According to several IATSE members, the mood among members is overwhelming in favor of approving a strike – which gives the guild more leverage in negotiating with film and television producers over a three-year collective agreement that has been going on since May. “In the past there was a lot of discussion between members when a strike was discussed,” a member of IATSE Local 700, who represents the editors, told TheWrap. “This year I would say that about 99% of the talks I have been in support a strike permit.”
The standstill couldn’t be limited to Hollywood. This week, the IATSE also announced plans to hold a vote on strike clearance for the 23 locals representing film and television workers on sets outside of Los Angeles. While the 13 West Coast locals work under the Hollywood Basic Agreement, the 23 nationwide locals work under a separate contract called the Area Standards Agreement, which also cut off talks between IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). IATSE represents more than 150,000 entertainment professionals in the United States and Canada, including editors, cinematographers, hair and makeup artists, production designers, and clients.
If the permit is in place, it does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike. It is expected that the IATSE negotiating committee will return to the negotiating table with a strike threat as additional leverage after the vote. At a time when studios are trying to make up for lost time after months of closures and breaks from COVID-19, a walkout would cause even more disruption than usual.
For the IATSE, there are three main sticking points in negotiations: They strive for a fixed limit to the shooting times in order to avoid 14-hour shooting days, which can lead to exhaustion. They also want higher contributions to the union’s health and retirement plan. But perhaps the biggest problem – one that all workers in Hollywood face – is higher wages and compensation for workers at a time when the streaming boom has caused rapid growth in production demand and profits.
âIt is incomprehensible that the AMPTP, an ensemble comprised of media mega-corporations worth trillions of dollars collectively, claims that they are failing to provide the crews behind the scenes with basic human necessities such as adequate sleep, meal breaks and living wages IATSE said in a statement on Tuesday. âWorse still, management doesn’t even seem to see our core issues as issues that even exist. These problems are real for workers and changes are long overdue. “
In its own statements, the AMPTP claims that it has put forward “a comprehensive proposal to close a deal that meaningfully addresses the key negotiating issues of the IATSE” and challenged the IATSE’s claim in a memo to members that the studios did not intend to make a counter offer to the unions latest proposal. âIt is unfortunate that the IATSE has taken the route of publishing incorrect information about the negotiations. This approach unnecessarily polarizes the negotiating parties and increases tensions at a time when we should focus on finding ways to avoid a strike, “the AMPTP said in a statement Thursday.
“A strike will wreak havoc on the industry, inevitably causing thousands of IATSE members to lose their incomes, be ineligible for health insurance, jeopardize pension funding and disrupt production,” the statement said. “The manufacturers undertake to reach an agreement at the negotiating table that balances the needs of both parties and keeps the industry going.”
IATSE members who spoke to TheWrap say they are not entirely sure if there will actually be a strike or if the approval vote is enough to convince the AMPTP to agree to more favorable terms. A strike against both the Hollywood and Area Standards Agreements would stop all unionized productions in the US and Canada – from big-screen blockbusters to talk shows.
But the Local 700 member said many members believe they need to draw a hard line now – especially on streaming projects. With new streaming services like HBO Max, Apple TV +, and Peacock still in the early stages of operations and eager to fill their libraries with original shows and movies, many workers feel that Hollywood’s workforce is turning to cheap in the face of an unprecedented demand for more content Compensation agreements must exist.
“If we don’t make strong demands now, it will only get worse in later discussions,” said the member. âThe studios still call these streaming shows ‘New Media’. They are no longer ânewâ media. Not for years. Streaming will be a lot of the work in Hollywood and we can’t set the bar so low on our treatment and pay. ”
A script coordinator who is a member of IATSE Local 871, which represents the worst-paid union workers in the industry, said the stressful conditions on the set have only gotten worse since filming resumed after the pandemic shutdown. She credits social media campaigns around hashtags like #IAStories for organizing members and encouraging them to discuss their struggles with work in the industry and build a united front.
“We may not have another chance like this to make serious changes to working conditions and so many of us can no longer wait for changes,” she said. âA day of shooting for 12 hours, an hour of commuting and less than seven hours of sleep cannot be the status quo. It will burn the people from the industry. ”