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IATSE Holds Vote on Industry Wide Strike in Hollywood

60,000 members could strike after talks break down between union and Hollywood producers

Brian Young's picture
Sep 21, 2021

Hollywood could be headed for a complete shutdown after talks between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and IATSE have broken down and a contract extension has expired.

According to the union, the AMPTP informed them on September 20th that they would not be responding to the unions comprehensive proposal that was made last week, meaning that the AMPTP was telling the union that they had made their last and final offer. “This failure to continue negotiating can only be interpreted one way,” said the negotiating committee in a letter to the membership. “They simply will not address the core issues we have repeatedly advocated for from the beginning. As a result, we will now proceed with a nationwide strike authorization vote to demonstrate our commitment to achieving the change that is long overdue in this industry.”

Negotiations between the two sides have been especially contentious and both sides were unable to reach a deal by July 31st when the contract originally expired. Instead, both sides agreed to an extension to September 10th, but that deadline came and went without a new agreement. Now the union says they will proceed forward with a nationwide strike vote that could bring the 60,000 members of IATSE who work under a contract with AMPTP on strike.

A strike by IATSE would effectively shut down production on movies and television as their members work on most major shows and movies. They work in jobs that range from building sets, make up and costuming, editing, and operating cameras, as well as many other trades on set. If they went on strike, it would be the first in the union’s history against AMPTP.

According to a press release from the union, some of the sticking points include 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, and changing the pay structure for workers on certain “new media” streaming projects so that they get paid the same as they would for a studio or network show with the same budget. Over the summer members of IATSE Local 871 launched the #IALivingWage hashtag to bring awareness to the struggle that some of these low paid craft members, like script coordinators, writers assistants, assistant production coordinators and art department coordinators, are going through. According to their contract, pay for these jobs is allowed to start at just $18 an hour. Other IATSE members from Local 52 set up an Instagram account where members shared their stories about unsafe working hours and conditions.

The union says that harmful working conditions and hours, which have been a major problem in the industry for years, have gotten especially bad recently as studios rush to make up for months of lost time last year due to the pandemic. IATSE says that just in the first seven months of 2021 they received numerous reports from members about workdays lasting 14 hours or longer. “The science is clear,” the union says in a pamphlet distributed to members recently. “Long and irregular hours without adequate breaks and rest are unsafe. The IATSE Locals are unified in their recognition that no other industry demands its employees work without bathroom, meal, or relaxation breaks day after day. The IATSE Locals are unified in their understanding that no other industry deprives its employees enough time to drive to and from work and get eight hours sleep every work day, week after week, after week.”

With a strike looking more and more likely support for IATSE members has begun to come in.

According to Deadline, two of the union’s largest locals the International Cinematographers Guild Local 600 and the Editors Guild Local 700 spent the weekend holding informational meetings to update the members on the status of negotiations. Deadline reports that all accounts from the meeting said that the members are ready to strike to get a new contract.

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