Not All IATSE Members Will Be on Strike, but They All Want to Shut Down Hollywood

IATSE can’t legally call for a full strike, but picket lines and solidarity could shut down even non-striking productions.
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The solidarity flowing through IATSE is real and unprecedented, but a strike Monday would directly impact only the 60,000 members who work under expired contracts. That leaves tens of thousands of other IATSE members who will not be on strike — but that’s not to say they won’t shut down Hollywood.

Expired is the Hollywood Basic Agreement, which applies to 13 West Coast locals consisting of an estimated 40,000 to 45,000 members working in Los Angeles. That represents a large percentage of studios’ scripted movies and television series as well as talk shows, reality TV, game shows, and variety shows within Los Angeles County.

Also expired is the Area Standards Agreement, which covers some 10,000 to 15,000 members employed on productions in major production hubs like Georgia, New Mexico, and Louisiana.

Not covered by a strike on Monday are productions under the theatrical low-budget agreement for movies under $15 million; the Premium Cable Agreement, for original shows made by HBO, Showtime, and Starz cable channels; side agreements that cover commercials; and parts of the country with their own regional agreements, most notably New York. This could create an awkward scenario for other IATSE crews that work under still-active agreements.

Local 52, the powerful five-state IATSE union — New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania (excluding Pittsburgh), and Connecticut — yesterday issued a letter to its members that stated: “If you are working under the Local 52 Majors agreement (a majority of our crews working within Local 52’s five-state jurisdiction) you will NOT be on strike.”

The letter details how the local is governed by a provision that clearly states there will be no strike, shutdown, slowdown, or lockout while its agreement (which expires October 30) is still active.

However, the letter also stipulates: “But the IA may establish a picket line at your jobsite and you will have to make the choice about whether to cross or not.” The letter from 52 also quotes this provision from its Majors Agreement: “Employees shall have the right to refuse to cross any authorized picket established by another trade union.”

It’s a loaded message: We can’t legally tell you to strike, and contractually you are obligated to go to work, but you have the right to choose not to cross a picket line.

Privately, local leaders have expressed deep concerns to IndieWire that IATSE members reporting to work on still-active agreements could be perceived as scabs, which is why they have actively coached would-be picketers to view these members as their brothers and sisters in solidarity.

And yet, for any picket line, it is the express goal to make it uncomfortable for these members to report to work. Local 600’s letter to members states clearly: “If we strike, we will be picketing studios and job sites and doing our best to stop production everywhere.”

Union leadership told IndieWire that a picket line’s ability to shut down production has much to do with where the production shoots. Studio lots’  entryways would be prime targets.

However, much of scripted film and television is shot on location and that makes for difficult and inefficient picketing. Same goes for members of local 700, which includes post-production artisans who are often in smaller post houses spread throughout New York and Los Angeles.

IndieWire checked in with one HBO production shooting in Los Angeles that is prepared to shoot on Monday, even if there is a strike, while a handful of New York-based productions working on active agreements report communication between studio and crew has been neither universal nor consistent.

Insiders tell IndieWire they will closely watch locals 52 and 600 in New York City on Monday. Local 52 members across New York have been gearing up to make their presence known on the picket line. Local 600 (Camera) is one of the 13 IATSE locals under the Hollywood Basic Agreement that’s prepared to go on strike, but it’s also an international union that stretches across all 50 states and Canada. It is possible that members of 600 believe that, as one member told IndieWire, “everything stems from the Basic agreement” and will not make a distinction of which part of the local are on strike: “It’s all the same.”

There are many who disagree with the legality of that stance, but it’s a sentiment that could set dominoes in motion. Local 600 members, which include cinematographers, are leaders amongst crews. And at the most basic level, if there’s no camera department there is no shoot. Beyond what happens Monday, New York would almost certainly officially join the nationwide strike when its contract expires on Halloween if negotiations continue at an impasse.

”Thiis obviously a developing situation,” reads 52’s letter. “[W]e will prepare as a Local to do our part in support of the nationwide strike on October 31, 2021.”

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