IATSE Moves Closer to a Strike
Two of their largest locals have voted to strike, national vote scheduled for weekend
Labor strife in Hollywood could shut down production of TV and movies as soon as next week, with the union representing backstage workers, IATSE, holding a strike vote from October 1-.3
Since the contract between IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) is a national contract each local will have to vote, with 75% of the local needing to support a strike. They then send delegates to a national meeting where the final vote is made. Over the weekend, the largest of the 13 locals included in the contract, Local 600 which is also known as the International Cinematographers Guild, voted unanimously to strike. Local 700, which represents Motion Picture editors, also voted to strike last week.
Around Los Angeles over the weekend, the members were out in force showing their support for a strike. In decidedly LA style, members painted their cars with slogans urging a yes vote and drove through the city, bringing the message to the public that the union is ready to walk if a deal is not reached. “It’s a fun way to show your solidarity. The members, they want to do something and it’s giving them something to do. It’s not like going to a rally and listening to someone speak … people are in their cars all the time in LA,” Cathy Repola, executive director of the Editors Guild, IATSE Local 700, told IndieWire.
While a strike authorization vote next weekend would not guarantee a strike, it is hard to fathom the union not going out on strike if it is authorized. This is because negotiations between the two sides have broken down and their contract expired on September 10th. As UCOMM Blog previously reported, this would be the first strike of this size for IATSE.
According to a letter the union sent to California lawmakers warning them of the economic impact of an IATSE strike, the union says that the following are the main sticking points in negotiations.
- Excessively unsafe and harmful working hours including Fridays that often last well into Saturday (aka “Fraturdays”).
Wages for the lowest paid crafts that cannot sustain a decent living.
- Incredibly long workdays without any break for a meal, to put down equipment, to unmask and get fresh air or just to sit down.
- Consistent failure to provide reasonable rest between workdays, and on weekends.
- Substandard rates for the same work on “new media” streaming projects even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters. This “relief” is being provided to the most profitable companies on the planet including Apple and Amazon.
A major point of contention for the union is fighting back over the changing working conditions. In the past few years, streaming services have exploded, but the contract that covers this work has not. Instead members are still getting paid like streaming was an up and coming medium and the people producing the shows were Youtubers trying to get a foot in the door. The reality is that now massive companies like Disney are creating streaming only content and that Netflix is reporting a $1.7 Billion profit in 2020, up 140% from 2019.
The union also says that the hours their members work is getting out of hand. They argue that many of their members are expected to work upwards of 14 hours a day for weeks at a time with no time off. Some members have even reported working upwards of 19 hours at a time for days on end.
Another point of contention are the low wages that some of the members are making. For some jobs on set, members are simply paid the minimum wage. “It’s so messed up when you’re in a Zoom room and you have people talking about how they’re renovating their vacation house, and you’re quietly thinking to yourself if I cut back to eating one meal a day, can I afford to pay my electricity bill this month,”said script coordinator Colby Bachiller “I started to accumulate so much debt to stick around in the job and there was even a time during the pandemic, where my unemployed friends who got laid off due to COVID was earning more money than I was earning.”
Members of IATSE Local 52, have set up an Instagram page to share some of the stories of the sacrifices that members make to produce the shows and films that we all love. Below are just a few of the stories that members have shared and are the reasons why they are fighting so hard to get a fair contract.