What Razor-Thin IATSE Contract Vote Reveals About Discontent With Hollywood’s Status Quo

Despite unanimous recommendations from IATSE leaders, a slight majority of West Coast local members voted against the Hollywood Basic Agreement

An Electoral College-esque system ended up keeping Hollywood from facing a widespread strike by below-the-line workers, as IATSE members approved their union’s latest contract with studios by the narrowest of margins.

But despite this result, the turnout by tens of thousands of Hollywood workers to reject a contract that leaders from all 36 nationwide IATSE locals had recommended shows that there is a significant portion of the workforce that is not pleased with Hollywood’s status quo and is willing to break ranks with union brass to voice that discontent.

“This sort of result is very rare over the last 30 years, but it is common over the past year,” Rutgers labor professor Susan Schurman said, referring to the wave of strikes seen across the United States in 2021. “Workers are angry, and working conditions are very high on people’s minds.”

Overall, 50.4% of members from IATSE’s 13 West Coast locals voted to reject the proposed Hollywood Basic Agreement, while 52% of members from the 23 locals outside the West Coast voted to approve the Area Standards Agreement, which covers film and TV shoots outside of Hollywood.

If IATSE’s contract vote had used the popular vote, studios would have had to choose between either returning to the negotiating table or refusing and risking IATSE staging a strike on the rejected Hollywood Basic Agreement. Since three of the locals governed by that agreement — the Editors, Art Directors and Cinematographers Guilds — are nationwide locals, that would have effectively shut down productions across the U.S. and Canada even though the Area Standards Agreement would have been approved.

But IATSE uses a delegate voting system akin to the Electoral College, with each local assigned a certain number of delegates who vote on ratification based on how their members vote. This means that the those three nationwide guilds have more delegates than the other 10 West Coast guilds, which are all regional.

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Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • jeremy.fuster@thewrap.com • Twitter: @jeremyfuster