The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) has announced that it will hold a nationwide membership vote on whether to ratify the Hollywood Basic and Area Standards Agreements on the weekend of Nov. 12, with results being announced on Nov. 15.
Members of the union’s 13 West Coast locals will vote on whether to approve the Hollywood Basic Agreement, while 23 locals nationwide will vote on the Area Standards Agreement.
The vote will take place roughly a month after IATSE negotiators reached a tentative agreement on a new bargaining agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents studios in labor talks. The deal was made with less than 36 hours until the union was set to walk away from talks and begin the first strike in IATSE history.
All 13 West Coast locals recommended approval of the contract in a joint letter published last week, touting it as the best contract the union has ever negotiated. Among the key gains is an increase in hourly wages for the union’s lowest paid members like script coordinators and writer assistants, rising from $16 per hour to $23.50 per hour in 2022 and to $26 per hour by 2024.
But members from all of the union’s locals have spoken out online against the deal since it was first announced on Oct. 16, arguing that it does not go far enough to address multiple issues that led tens of thousands of IATSE members to authorize a strike.
Among those issues is turnaround times, as members have criticized studios for pushing film and TV productions into shoots that last over 14 hours and providing little time for rest. The new contract requires 10-hour turnarounds for all productions, including productions like first-season TV shows that regularly shoot late into the night and then start early again the next day. Shoots with five-day work schedules must have 54-hour turnarounds on weekends while shoots with six-day schedules must have 32-hour turnarounds.
Critics within the union say that many productions already have 10-hour turnarounds, meaning there will be no discernable change in rest periods for thousands of crew workers. The issue of turnarounds and rest periods has come up on the set of “Rust,” where actor Alec Baldwin accidentally killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins with a live firearm. Hours before the accident, several union crew members walked off the production, with one of their complaints being the production’s alleged refusal to provide lodging within a reasonable distance of the film site, leaving the crew with reduced time for sleep.
Since the deal was struck, locals have held meetings with members to discuss the details of the agreement and to answer questions and concerns. In a joint statement, representatives from the West Coast locals argued that voting down the contract would empower the AMPTP.
“Our future success will depend on our ability to stay united rather than being divided. That only serves our employers. Let’s move forward together and take ownership in advocating for the long overdue cultural change needed in this industry,” the memo reads. “It doesn’t stop here, and in fact, it has just begun. We are committed to doing this work together. This contract is only one of the tools we have at our disposal. Ultimately our solidarity is more powerful than any words on paper could ever be.”
Meanwhile, members against the contract have organized on social media. IA Members Unite, a grassroots Instagram organizing page run by rank-and-file members, published a survey on Wednesday outlining major issues with the agreement that hundreds of surveyed IATSE members have asked negotiators to rectify in a new round of talks. Among them are contributions from streaming companies like Netflix into the union’s health and pension fund and wage increases that are in line with the annual inflation rate as opposed to the 3% annual increase negotiated in the contract.
“To our Business Representatives and the leaders of IATSE, we ask that you stand in solidarity with us. We ask that you fight like hell to secure our unalienable rights. We ask that you hold the AMPTP accountable. Our requests for safety and basic human rights are a pittance for the amount of money we’ve made for them by fudging our time cards, looking the other way on safety measures, and not speaking up out of fear of retaliation,” Members Unite said in a statement.
The ratification vote will use the same system as the strike authorization vote, with each local voting on whether its delegates should approve the contract. In 2018, the Motion Picture Editors Guild was the sole West Coast local to vote against ratification.
Union members in support of and against the contract have told TheWrap that they expect the contract will be ratified, though it is unclear at this point exactly how many of IATSE’s 60,000+ TV and film membership support the agreement. If members were to reject the contract and send negotiators back to the table, they would not be the first union to do so this year. Earlier this week, employees at John Deere that are unionized with United Auto Workers rejected a contract offer in a second ratification vote, continuing a strike that has seen over 10,000 workers take to the picket lines. .