IATSE Plans Multipronged Approach to Address AI Use in Hollywood

Below-the-line workers union pledges to take a “comprehensive” approach to the new technology, including organizing and educating its members


The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees announced on Wednesday its “core principles” to addressing the rise of artificial intelligence in the entertainment industry, outlining its multifaceted approach to addressing technology that the below-the-line workers union says “threatens to
fundamentally alter employers’ business models and disrupt IATSE members’ livelihoods.”

“The stakes involved are high, therefore IATSE’s approach as a union must be comprehensive,
focusing on Research, Collaboration, Education, Political and Legislative Advocacy, Organizing,
and Collective Bargaining,” the union wrote.

The announcement comes after IATSE political and legislative director Tyler McIntosh met this past weekend with Biden Administration officials and other union leaders for a discussion on the potential impacts of artificial intelligence on labor. Among those present were SAG-AFTRA general counsel Jeffrey Bennett, Writers Guild of America East executive director Lowell Peterson, and representatives from non-entertainment labor orgs such as AFSCME, AFL-CIO, and United Auto Workers.

As part of its plans, IATSE has developed a special commission that will research how AI is being used in Hollywood both now and in the near future, as well as which jobs under IATSE jurisdiction are most at-risk of being altered or outright replaced by AI. The union will use the commission’s information to “advance enforceable legislative and collective bargaining oversight.”

IATSE is also developing programs to educate its members about how artificial intelligence will affect them, including a new online training course available for free to IATSE members on LinkedIn.

“We assert that our members have the right to receive adequate training and upskilling opportunities to navigate any changes brought about by AI in their work environment. We will continue to work to equip our members with the skills to navigate this technological advancement and build a culture of continuous education, both through IATSE’s own Education and Training Department, and the IATSE Training Trust Fund,” the union wrote.

Artificial intelligence has been a hot-button issue for Hollywood’s union’s, including SAG-AFTRA, which has said it is pushing for proper rules on consent and compensation for AI recreations of performers’ work and likeness in its ongoing contract talks. The striking WGA said studio representative Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers only offered to hold meetings on potential use of AI in entertainment scripts rather than agree to any strict regulations.

As part of its recently ratified agreement, the Directors Guild of America secured language prohibiting the use of generative AI — the type powering ChatGPT and other text- and image-output tools — “in connection with creative elements without consultation with the Director or other DGA-covered employees consistent with the requirements of the DGA Basic Agreement.” While the contract was passed by members with 87% of the vote, some members voted concern that the language did not go far enough and that ensuring directors were consulted on AI use was not the same as guaranteeing that they have express approval over how technology is used on their projects.

IATSE will have its next round of contract talks with the AMPTP in 2024, three years after its last contract was narrowly passed via the union’s delegate system.