Will IATSE union members strike? We will know very soon. Union members vote on strike authorization later this week, between Friday, October 1 and Sunday, October 3, with results expected to be reported on Monday the 4th.
It’s important to note that a vote of authorization does not guarantee a walkout and shutdown of production. Approval from union members to strike gives IATSE leaders more clout in deal negotiations by threatening to close down productions at a crucial time. IATSE members (aka the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) are expected to overwhelmingly vote in approval of strike authorization. At that point, it will come down to the subsequent negotiations between the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
Unions Stand Together in Support of IATSE’s Efforts
IATSE president Matthew Loeb and the presidents of 13 Hollywood locals, saying that “now is the time to change the culture of our work places,” issued a joint statement to Deadline Tuesday urging members to authorize a nationwide strike against film and TV production companies.
“We each have witnessed first-hand the physical and emotional suffering our members and their loved ones endure as a result of punishing and unrealistic schedules, and lack of rest or meal breaks,” they said in their statement to Deadline. “We have repeatedly seen the economic impact of inadequate rates for members who do not make a living wage, and the discounted ‘New Media’ pay rates that subsidize mature and profitable streaming businesses.”
“Now is the time to change the culture of our work places. We fully support our members who demand safe and sane working conditions, equitable wages and sustainable health and pension benefits.
The joint statement concluded in declaring, “Our responsibility to our members and generations to follow is to correct these untenable conditions.”
What IATSE Is Asking for from AMPTP
Here is IATSE’s initial statement earlier this month, outlining the conflict at hand. “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 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.”
Results of the IATSE member vote will be announced this Monday, and then it will come down to the negotiations between union and AMPTP leaders. 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 Illinois industry and economy.
Check back here at SCREEN Magazine for updates in the weeks ahead.