IATSE members authorize strike for better wages and working conditions: NPR

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Screenwriter Crystal Kan draws signs on the cars of IATSE union members at a rally in Los Angeles in September.

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Myung J. Chun / Getty Images


Screenwriter Crystal Kan draws signs on the cars of IATSE union members at a rally in Los Angeles in September.

Myung J. Chun / Getty Images

Hollywood film and television productions could close soon if contract negotiations are not resolved. Production staff from the International Alliance of Theatrical Employees, or IATSE, voted to authorize a strike on Monday due to disputes with studio producers over their hours, pay and working conditions. The threat of a full-blown strike could be leverage in future negotiations, which could come this week as the two sides meet again for talks.

Members of 13 local unions on the West Coast and 23 other locals across the country – totaling 60,000 workers – voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if necessary. It could impact everyone from cinematographers and editors to makeup artists and food workers who nurture the cast and crew. Many of them complained that they had more than 12-hour workdays with few breaks, rates under $ 18 an hour, and miserable working conditions. Some are asking for more compensation for productions broadcast online and not theatrically released. Since May, their national union has been trying to conclude new basic agreements with the Alliance of Film and Television Producers (AMPTP).

“I hope the studios will see and understand the determination of our members,” said IATSE International President Matthew Loeb. today’s announcement. “The ball is in their court. If they want to avoid a strike, they will go back to the bargaining table and make a reasonable offer to us.

He said the issue concerns the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those working 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. “

“No one wants to strike. It would be a last resort,” said Rebecca Rhine, national executive director of the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, which represents approximately 9,000 cameramen and publicists. She said it is “remarkable” that more than 98% of IATSE members who voted chose to authorize a strike if necessary. (Almost 90% of eligible members voted.) “It’s a clear mandate and a message to employers,” she said. “If we have to strike it would be devastating. We hope we don’t have to. But if it’s necessary, they will.”

Workers shared their stories on social media, where some complain that their call times are grueling, leaving them little time to see their families, sleep deprivation and more.

Ben Gottlieb, a lighting designer who moderates an Instagram account presenting the experiences of the production staff, said he heard from many workers. “A lot of people are being told they have to choose between industry and a family. It’s brutal,” he says. “People are frustrated that this is a prolific, iconic American industry that somehow thrives on these almost archaic working practices.”

The production teams have received backing from lawmakers and celebrities including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, LeVar Burton, Mindy Kaling, Kerry Washington and Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth Carter.

In a statement, AMPTP said the producer organization “remains committed to reaching an agreement that will allow the industry to continue to function. We deeply value our IATSE crew members and are committed to working with them. them to avoid shutting down the industry at such a crucial time, especially as the industry is still recovering from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. ”

In an earlier statement, AMPTP wrote that it had listened to IATSE’s demands and proposed a package including “substantial improvements in rest periods, increases in wages and benefits, increases in minimum rates for specific job categories “and more.

After IATSE members voted to authorize a strike, AMPTP wrote that a deal “can be reached at the negotiating table, but it will take both sides to work together in good faith with a will to compromise and explore new solutions to resolve outstanding issues. . “

If the IATSE calls for a strike, it would be the first in the union’s 128-year history.



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