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As IATSE Vote Looms, Confident Union Members — and Their Cars — Take to the Streets in Support of Strike

At a Sunday grassroots event, IATSE members bonded, got crafty, and made it clear that they are feeling major enthusiasm for the upcoming authorization vote.

IATSE members paint messages of support of the upcoming strike authorization vote Sunday afternoon.

IATSE members paint messages of support of the upcoming strike authorization vote Sunday afternoon

Chris Lindahl

In a decidedly Los Angeles show of support for IATSE’s strike-authorization, hundreds of people queued up in Hollywood Sunday to have their car windows painted with the union’s logo, raised fists, and messages urging some 60,000 crafts workers to “vote yes” in elections that begin Friday.

The effort took place over seven hours Sunday afternoon behind the Sunset Boulevard headquarters of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, one of the 13 Hollywood locals that are covered by the IATSE-studio contract negotiations that reached an impasse earlier this month. Unsatisfied by progress around wage increases, breaks, and other big-ticket issues, IATSE’s leadership is optimistic it can marshal its members to approve a strike in a effort to dramatically turn up the heat in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents major studios and production companies.

The support for a yes vote among grips, camera operators, editors, and others is prominently displayed on social media and on-set conversations. But Sunday’s car-decorating will help push the message into Los Angeles’ most public space: its streets.

“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.

Los Angeles’ socioeconomics play out through its car-centricity. There’s the capitalist crusaders of “Repo Man” conducting their work across the city’s sprawl, the privileged Cher and her Jeep in “Clueless,” and Sin-Dee taking care of business (without a car!) in “Tangerine.”

Exhausted production assistants falling asleep at the wheel or getting into accidents might as well be a category in itself on IATSE Stories, the Instagram account that has helped fuel yes-vote sentiment with its anonymous accounts of industry working conditions. To illustrate the tenor of the contract impasse, one labor leader recently quipped about studio executives crying poor during negotiations only to drive home in their luxury vehicles easily worth double — triple, quadruple, five times — what their lowest-wage employees make in a year.

Needless to say, there were no G-Wagens that came through the Editors Guild parking lot during one hourlong stretch Sunday afternoon, but plenty of Toyotas, Hondas, Fords, and an older Lexus or two.

The car-painting idea was sparked by Shiran Amir, an editor and member of Local 700, and spearheaded by members of the union’s Young Workers Group who worked with other locals to get the event off the ground in less than a week.

“I think we bought all the markers in LA, at least the white ones,” Local 700 member Ashley McKinney said. “People are bringing extra supplies.”

Jason Brotman, a board member of Local 700 and co-chair of its Young Workers Group, said there’s particular enthusiasm for the authorization vote among his peers. About a quarter of the 6,500-member local is under 35.

“It’s pretty-well documented at this point, from an economic and political standpoint, that Millennials and Gen Z are united against things they consider to be unjust,” he said. “The way things have been working in our industry, it’s just not right. This should not be destroying people’s families, but it does unfortunately.”

Those sentiments are felt by the most veteran members, too. Repola said she’s confident Local 700’s election will pass the three-quarters “yes” vote threshold needed to register its delegates in favor of a strike authorization; the local’s board voted unanimously in favor of recommending it.

“During the pandemic, the contrast was in their faces — being able to have dinner with your family, or not miss a wedding, or be there for your kids’ birthdays,” she said.

While it remains to be seen whether the strong sense of enthusiasm for a “yes” vote will play out over the weekend, Repola and other leaders have displayed a strong sense of optimism about its outcome.

“I’ve been with the local for 29 years and I’ve never seen anything like this, the inter-local solidarity,” she said.

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