IATSE, the major labor union for film, theater, and television workers, is mulling a possible strike amid ongoing negotiations with the AMPTP. The union, which represents 150,000 workers across 13 Hollywood locals, released a statement to members Tuesday indicating a vote on a strike could be forthcoming. The union’s major priorities include living wages, reasonable rest (turnaround between shoot days), better meal breaks, and sustainable benefits (e.g. pensions that reflect cost of living increases).
The major sticking point in the latest round of negotiations is over rates and/or benefits for streaming projects, which are currently slated at a lower rate under the “New Media” classification. IATSE argues that after 13 years, streaming can no longer be considered “New Media,” preferring the term “Not So New Media.” (Crews working on Netflix series and movies are paid at union rates, but benefits paid via residuals are a point of contention.)
IATSE’s contract expires every 3 years, with the latest having already expired this summer. But negotiations were delayed as IATSE joined with other major unions in updating agreements with studios about COVID safety protocols. With an extension agreement in place until Friday, September 10, IATSE and AMPTP will re-commence negotiations today, September 9.
“Our goal is to reach every single one of our members and make sure they know what is going on in negotiations; where to go get more information; and, when the moment comes, how to make their voices heard by voting,” the union said in an email sent to members September 7. “We don’t know what the vote will be — contract ratification or strike authorization — but we know it is coming, and we need local members to speak out in large numbers.”
Here is a breakdown of the union’s major priorities as it heads into negotiations, with language taken from IATSE’s communication to members on September 7:
“The most profitable companies on the planet do not need cut rates that were negotiated to address a once emerging distribution method. Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook…should all pay industry standard wages to the professionals who crew their productions.”
“The pandemic has affirmed that health and retirement benefits are the ultimate safety net for working families. Making sure those benefits remain stable and well-funded in the face of rampant health care inflation and an uncertain investment environment is critical.”
• Additional funding, through increased employer contributions and new forms of ongoing funding.
“New Media is media. We helped build it. We deserve to be paid for it. …This is not just about streaming companies — among the most valuable corporations on the planet — but also about the studios and networks where our members’ labor facilitated their ability to compete and succeed.”
• Recognition that New Media is now the industry standard and growing exponentially.
• In 2009, the unions and studios agreed that if and when “…New Media production became an economically viable medium, then the parties would mutually recognize that fact in future agreements.”
“Reasonable Rest demands that the Employers not treat our members like machines that can just work until they are broken and then be replaced. Everyone needs and deserves a real and meaningful rest period between shifts to provide for a decent night’s sleep. …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.”
• A real and meaningful rest period before leaving and returning to work regardless of the craft or production.
• A weekend rest period that allows for actual rest and time to spend with family and friends.
• Effective penalties that truly discourage the systematic elimination of meal breaks and working straight through into weekends.
IATSE has been one of four major unions — alongside the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, and Teamsters — that have negotiated COVID safety measures across production throughout the pandemic. With the latest agreement on protocols regarding outdoor masking, testing, and vaccination requirements recently updated, IATSE can now turn its attention to its union demands.
Founded in 1893, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees has 13 Hollywood locals, including the Cinematographers Guild Local 600, Art Directors Guild Local 800, Animation Guild Local 839, and Editors Guild Local 700. The union counts a total of 366 locals in the U.S. and Canada, which are organized by geographic region and craft jurisdictions.