Why Approval of IATSE’s New Contract May Not Be a Sure Thing

The Motion Picture Editors Guild was the only local to vote against ratifying IATSE’s 2018 contract. In 2021, the debate is more intense

After months of organizing and internal debate, tens of thousands of IATSE members in 36 locals nationwide will decide this weekend whether to ratify the contract negotiated with Hollywood studios or to send the union back to the table to demand a better deal. And while September’s vote to authorize a strike was nearly unanimous, the outlook for approving the contract the union negotiated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is far from clear, with many union insiders suggesting the vote will be closer to 50/50 than a overwhelming majority either way.

That vote has come out in the midst of vocal backlash from many in the rank-and-file against both the contract and the leadership that has been celebrating it publicly as a historic success. Film and TV editor Zack Arnold has seen this unfold within his IATSE local, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, and he isn’t surprised at the pushback.

“People are realizing that the status quo has to change, and they feel that with the perfect storm that has built with the pandemic and labor demands and the streamers’ need for content, that there isn’t going to be a better chance than this to demand change and a lot of them aren’t accepting that this is the best we can hope for,” Arnold told TheWrap.

Arnold, a film and TV editor whose credits include episodes of “Empire” and “Cobra Kai,” is one of several IATSE members who told TheWrap about the debate within the rank-and-file over the contract since union leaders announced the deal on October 16, less than 48 hours before tens of thousands of below-the-line workers were set to go on strike.

From Nov. 12-14, thousands of members will be able to vote on ratifying the contract via the same delegate system used in a nearly unanimous strike authorization vote back in September. The 13 West Coast locals will vote on the Hollywood Basic Agreement while 23 other locals nationwide will vote on the Area Standards Agreement, which covers shoots outside California.

With 8,500 members, the Editors Guild has the second largest membership of any IATSE local. It was also the only local to reject ratification of the last contract cycle in 2018, contributing all 73 of the the 385 delegates that pledged “No” votes.

The editors’ concerns reflect the conflict throughout IATSE after presenting a unified front for months to demand better wages and working conditions. A movement of tens of thousands of Hollywood workers brought to their breaking point by the pandemic is now colliding with the realities of bargaining, with many members feeling disillusioned by a deal that, while offering improvements for some sections of the workforce, will leave the status quo unchanged for many others.

“The expectation was set too far ahead of how much could actually be gained given the negotiations,” Arnold said. “We couldn’t even get the things that we wanted, but nobody knew that. When the deal was released people realized that this was the same thing that we have been doing for decades but 1% better, and that set off this firestorm.”

Become a member to read more.

Jeremy Fuster

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