IATSE Calls for Strike Authorization Vote; How Will Chicago TV Industry Be Impacted?

Is a nationwide strike of IATSE union members imminent? “IATSE members are mobilizing in preparation for a nationwide strike authorization vote to demonstrate our commitment to achieving the change that is long overdue in this industry,” said IATSE reps in a statement, after months of talks between the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have failed to produce an agreement on a new contract.

With Chicago in the midst of a record-breaking year of television production, and with IATSE (aka the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) representing over 140,000 technicians, artisans, and craftspersons in the entertainment industry, any sort of labor discord or halt could have a massive impact on the local industry and economy.

A tweet from the IATSE account this afternoon perhaps defines the importance of this pending strike decision best:

“The next time you watch a movie or television show, watch the credits all the way until the end (bonus points if you find our emblem!) NOT ONE SECOND of that content would be possible without all of those crewmembers. #IASolidarity”

Here’s the Statement from IATSE…

“After months of negotiating successor contracts to the Producer-IATSE Basic Agreement, and the Theatrical and Television Motion Picture Area Standard Agreement, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) announced Monday it does not intend to make any counteroffer to the IATSE’s most recent proposal.

Throughout the bargaining process, the AMPTP has failed to work with us on addressing the most grievous problems in their workplaces, including:

  • Excessively unsafe and harmful working hours.
  • Unlivable wages for the lowest paid crafts.
  • Consistent failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks, between workdays, and on weekends.
  • Workers on certain “new media” streaming projects get paid less, even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters.

It is incomprehensible that the AMPTP, an ensemble that includes media mega-corporations collectively worth trillions of dollars, claims it cannot provide behind-the-scenes crews with basic human necessities like adequate sleep, meal breaks, and living wages. Worse, management does not appear to even recognize our core issues as problems that exist in the first place.

These issues are real for the workers in our industry and change is long overdue. However, the explosion of streaming combined with the pandemic has elevated and aggravated working conditions, bringing 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers covered by these contracts to a breaking point. We risked our health and safety all year, working through the Pandemic to ensure that our business emerged intact. Now, we cannot and will not accept a deal that leaves us with an unsustainable outcome.

In response to the AMPTP’s tactics, IATSE members are mobilizing in preparation for a nationwide strike authorization vote to demonstrate our commitment to achieving the change that is long overdue in this industry.”

What the AMPTP Has to Say

In a statement released to the Los Angeles Times, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said it had “listened and addressed” many of the union’s demands, including increasing minimum pay rates for some types of new media productions and covering a nearly $400-million pension and health plan deficit.

“When we began negotiations with the IATSE months ago, we discussed the economic realities and the challenges facing the entertainment industry as we work to recover from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the producers group said. “In choosing to leave the bargaining table to seek a strike authorization vote, the IATSE leadership walked away from a generous comprehensive package.”

What’s Next

While a specific date for the IATSE vote has not been set, that date can be expected in the very near future. It’s also worth noting that a vote of approval does not guarantee an immediate shutdown of production. According to the Los Angeles Times, “although a favorable strike vote does not mean a walkout will follow, it potentially gives union leaders more clout in negotiations by threatening to close down productions at a crucial time.”

Check back here at SCREEN Magazine for updates in the weeks ahead.

Photo Source: IATSE Local 600

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