Hollywood workers vote to authorize strike
LOS ANGELES – Hollywood came close to a production shutdown on Monday after one of the film and television industry’s lesser-known unions said members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.
The International Alliance of Theater Workers said 90 percent of eligible members vote online between Friday and Sunday; nearly 99 percent of the vote was in favor of a strike. The union represents some 150,000 team members in the United States and Canada: cameramen, cinematographers, script coordinators, props, set designers, editors, makeup artists and other backstage specialists. About 60,000 members are covered by the contract currently being renegotiated with the studios.
The previous three-year contract expired in July. Renewal negotiations began in May and were stalled on September 20, when the Alliance of Film and TV Producers – a negotiating body for studios, including Amazon, Apple and Netflix – refused to counter the proposal. the most recent from the union. Union wants better pay for streaming service work; higher salaries for coordinators and assistants on all productions; longer rest periods between shifts and weekends; and increased requirements for meal breaks during marathon shoots.
“I hope the studios will see and understand the determination of our members,” said Matthew Loeb, union president, in a statement. “The ball is in their backyard. If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer.
The IATSE, as the union (or sometimes just IA) is called, reiterated on Monday that it was hopeful that a strike could be avoided. The crews last left work in 1945. At the time, some performing workers were represented by a now defunct organization called the Conference of Studio Unions; rival IATSE was then controlled by the Chicago Mafia, which the studios bribed to thwart social unrest.
Since the 1940s, the entertainment industry has been turned upside down about once a decade by a union strike, with technological advances often at fault. The most recent dates back to 2007, when the Writers Guild of America staged a 100-day strike to pay for “new media,” as online shows and movie downloads were then called. The ripple effects of the strike cost the California economy $ 2.1 billion and 37,700 jobs.
On Friday, 120 members of Congress, including Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and Senate Majority Leader, sent a letter to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers asking for a “fair” contract to be negotiated. “Failure to reach an agreement would threaten not only the livelihoods of these workers, but also their family members who depend on work in your industry, sending shock waves throughout the US economy,” says the letter.
The Alliance of Film and Television Producers said on Monday it hoped to come to an agreement on a new contract and “make the industry work.”
The organization added: “An agreement can be reached at the negotiating table, but it will take both sides to work together in good faith with a willingness to compromise and explore new solutions to resolve outstanding issues.”
In previous statements, the studios have signaled their determination to limit union gains by noting “the economic realities and challenges the entertainment industry faces as we work to recover from the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. “.
Here is the inventory:
What happens next?
Both sides will likely return to the negotiating table, perhaps this week. And now the union is wielding a big hammer: the ability to strike at any time.
When writers hit in 2007, studios used a backlog of scripts to keep filming. If IATSE pulls out, production would shut down almost immediately – there’s not much you can do in Hollywood without a camera operator.
What are the sticking points?
The IATSE has repeatedly said that studios have barely budged on the union’s priority issues around meal breaks, rest periods, higher wages for lower-paid workers and wages related to streaming.
The studios say they have negotiated in good faith and given in to many of the union’s demands, including an agreement to fund a $ 400 million deficit in its pension and health plan without charging premiums or increasing the cost of health coverage. Studios say they have also agreed to longer rest periods between shifts (10 hours of rotation for most employees) and some pay increases. The studios gave the teams an extra day off by finally recognizing Martin Luther King’s birthday, which has been a federal holiday since 1983.
Why has rest become a trade union priority?
Entertainment companies are trying to make up for lost time during pandemic-related shutdowns by producing new TV shows and movies at a breakneck pace. In particular, streaming services harm content; Netflix and Disney have both experienced a slowdown in subscriber registrations as high profile offerings have been delayed by the pandemic.
The pandemic has also given the crew members a new perspective. “We are people, not machines,” said Sarah Graalman, a makeup artist. “Just because we worked in the soil was normal doesn’t mean that everything is fine. Thousands of us realized this during Covid. We need to have a work-life balance.
Ms Graalman, whose credits include an Amazon comedy called ‘Harlem,’ added, ‘My trick to staying awake when coming home from work at 3 or 5 in the morning was to smoke. Then I quit and walked over to the car screaming, eating wasabi peas, or slapping my face dramatically. Once I fell asleep at a red light and someone knocked on my window to wake me up.
Why are businesses at risk of shutting down?
A few reasons. Production costs have already skyrocketed due to coronavirus safety measures, and the studios say IATSE’s requests will further jeopardize profitability. Costs associated with Covid-19 security protocols can increase a project’s budget by up to 20%, according to producers.
To attract subscribers, streaming services offer exorbitant salaries to leading actors, directors and producers. This means looking for cost savings in other areas, including what is known as the below-the-line workforce – the teams.
And companies are thinking of reverbs: If crews get big wins, other Hollywood unions are going to demand similar treatment. The Writers Guild of America, Directors Guild of America and Actors Union SAG-AFTRA all have contract negotiations coming up, with streaming at their centers.
How did the IATSE rally its members?
Tension has long been simmering between teams and studios, with teams – the Hollywood equivalent of blue-collar workers – feeling overlooked and underappreciated, especially as deep-pocketed tech companies like Apple and Amazon have colonized the world. entertainment industry. Anger started to boil over over the summer, when IATSE member Ben Gottlieb, a young lighting technician, launched an Instagram page dedicated to work-related horror stories.
More than 1,100 entertainment workers have since posted poignant anecdotes on the page, which has 142,000 subscribers.
“It’s hard to know if everyone is taking a stand and if they are going to come back to the table and fix this problem,” Brad Simpson, a prominent film and television producer, said by phone. “In my 20+ years, however, I haven’t seen the below-the-line crew feel so united and so overwhelmed.”