The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees’ members have overwhelmingly voted in favor of a strike authorization, giving the union new leverage in talks with studios on a new bargaining agreement.
The union reports that 90% of members cast ballots this weekend, with 98% of those votes in favor of strike authorization. The union’s negotiating committee will meet with representatives from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on Tuesday morning to resume negotiations.
“The members have spoken loud and clear,” said IATSE president Matthew Loeb in a statement. “This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work 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.”
Strike authorization votes were held on two bargaining agreements: the Hollywood Basic Agreement, which covers the 13 West Coast locals, and the Area Standards Agreement, which covers 23 locals that work on film and TV shoots nationwide. Each local votes on whether their delegates should vote to authorize the strike, with all of a local’s delegates voting yes if more than 75% approve.
The authorization does not immediately signal a strike but could increase the pressure on the AMPTP to concede more favorable terms to IATSE. On an Action Network petition page, IATSE laid out its four major issues:
1. Excessively unsafe and harmful working hours.
2. Unlivable wages for the lowest-paid crafts.
3. Consistent failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks, between workdays, and on weekends.
4. Workers on certain “new media” streaming projects get paid less, even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters.
The AMPTP says that it addressed the union’s demands with a proposal that included included increases of 10-19% in minimum wages for 871 members, an average of 18% increase in minimums for certain new media productions, and covering the $400 million deficit in the IATSE Health Plan without raising premiums and other healthcare costs like deductibles and co-pays for dependents.
“The AMPTP remains committed to reaching an agreement that will keep the industry working. We deeply value our IATSE crew members and are committed to working with them to avoid shutting down the industry at such a pivotal time, particularly since the industry is still recovering from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the organization said in a statement on Monday. “A deal can be made at the bargaining table, but it will require both parties working together in good faith with a willingness to compromise and to explore new solutions to resolve the open issues.”
Meanwhile, IATSE members have engaged in extensive organizing both on social media and elsewhere, creating the Instagram page IAStories to allow members to share their financial and mental struggles with long hours and low pay. One film editor told TheWrap that the organizing has led to a marked change in how the membership discussed a potential strike.
“In the past when there’s been talks about a strike, there was a lot of debate online between members about whether to do it,” the editor said. “This year, I’d say about 99% of the talks I’ve been a part of support a strike authorization.”