Landslide vote sends below-the-line workers’ union back to the negotiating table with new leverage
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees announced on Monday that its members overwhelmingly voted in favor of a strike authorization this past weekend, giving the union’s negotiating committee new leverage as it plans to return to the negotiating table with studios on a new bargaining agreement.
The union reports that 90% of members cast ballots this weekend, with 98% of those votes in favor of strike authorization.
“The members have spoken loud and clear,” said IATSE President Matthew Loeb in a statement. “This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry. Our people have basic human needs like time for meal breaks, adequate sleep, and a weekend. For those at the bottom of the pay scale, they deserve nothing less than a living wage.”
Strike authorization votes were held on two bargaining agreements: the Hollywood Basic Agreement, which covers the 13 West Coast locals, and the Area Standards Agreement, which covers 23 locals that work on film and TV shoots nationwide. Each local votes on whether their delegates should vote to authorize the strike, with all of a local’s delegates voting yes if more than 75% approve.
The authorization does not immediately signal a strike, but could increase the pressure on the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the studios, to concede more favorable terms to IATSE. On an Action Network petition page, IATSE laid out its four major issues:
1. Excessively unsafe and harmful working hours.
2. Unlivable wages for the lowest-paid crafts.
3. Consistent failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks, between workdays, and on weekends.
4. Workers on certain “new media” streaming projects get paid less, even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters.
In a statement released at the time the strike authorization vote was announced, the AMPTP said that it addressed the union’s demands with a proposal that included included increases of 10-19% in minimum wages for 871 members, an average of 18% increase in minimums for certain new media productions, and covering the $400 million deficit in the IATSE Health Plan without raising premiums and other healthcare costs like deductibles and co-pays for dependents.
“While neither party is getting everything it wanted this bargaining cycle, this package recognizes the crucial role IATSE crew members play as we continue to move our industry forward and provide employment for thousands of employees who work on productions,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, IATSE members have engaged in extensive organizing both on social media and elsewhere, creating the Instagram page IAStories to allow members to share their financial and mental struggles with long hours and low pay. One film editor told TheWrap that the organizing has led to a marked change in how the membership discussed a potential strike.
“In the past when there’s been talks about a strike, there was a lot of debate online between members about whether to do it,” the editor said. “This year, I’d say about 99% of the talks I’ve been a part of support a strike authorization.”
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