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Is the IATSE about to go on strike?




The International Alliance of Theatrical Workers (IATSE), which represents some 43,000 Hollywood workers, is not known to tip the boat.

In fact, the last time Hollywood teams staged a major walkout was during World War II.

Then the Studio Union Conference was in a bitter war with its rival IATSE, which was controlled by the Chicago Mafia, which suppressed wages and strikes in exchange for studio payments.

When the CSU went on strike in March 1945, some IATSE members showed their support and violent clashes with scabs broke out outside the Warner Bros. studio. Burbank once known as Hollywoods Bloody Friday.

Eight decades later, there is talk again of a strike in Hollywood below the line. After months of protracted negotiations with major studios, 13 IATSE locals in Hollywood are preparing their members for a possible strike authorization vote, according to union members who have not been allowed to be appointed.

The union has tried to secure a new three-year core deal that covers thousands of prop manufacturers, costume designers, cameramen and other technicians who work behind the scenes on film and television sets. But negotiations with the Alliance of Film and TV Producers have been strained and the parties are not close to a deal, people familiar with the talks said.

The contract originally expired on July 31 and was extended until midnight Friday to allow more time for negotiations.

The union carries some weight as the dispute comes at a time when major studios are eager to ramp up their productions after last year’s hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Writers Guild of America pulled out of a possible walkout last year in part because of the production shutdown.

There have been complaints of excessive working hours, etc., as the industry began to catch up with production, said Daniel Mitchell, professor emeritus at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. A threat of strike action that would hamper production would be more effective from a union point of view now than in a more normal situation.

Social unrest has been fueled by the confluence of the pandemic and a boil of streaming platforms thirsty for hot new shows and movies. As media companies have seen their streaming platforms flourish, teams are feeling increased pressure from production workloads. Workers are demanding more rest time, a greater reduction in streaming growth, and better funding for their health and pension plans.

For their part, the studios have backed down from some of the demands, citing the massive losses they have suffered as a result of the health crisis, which has forced the cancellation or delay of many productions and severely limited box office returns. .

Frustration has been mounting for years, say union representatives.

Many of these issues that IATSE has tried to negotiate over a number of contract cycles and there hasn’t been any substantial progress, said Marisa Shipley, vice president of Local 871 and art department coordinator. .

The pandemic has changed a lot for people and helped bring us to this breaking point, Shipley added. Seeing how much money producers immediately threw on COVID protocols as members continue to work under these conditions is frustrating for many of us. We need a systemic change in the contract.

IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which includes Warner Bros. and Netflix, declined to comment. Both are subject to press cuttings during negotiations.

Although few union observers believe a strike is likely, it is unclear what will happen next. The parties could choose to extend the contract or let it expire if they don’t agree on the terms. As a sign of escalation, the union leadership could also ask members to authorize a possible strike to give them more weight in the talks.

One notable change union members point out from previous negotiations is the increased dialogue between locals and crew members.

This group is the most united of any union group I have ever seen, said Steven Poster, cinematographer and former president of Local 600.

Tensions flared on August 31 after six weeks of talks when leaders of 13 Hollywood residents and IATSE Chairman Matthew Loeb said in a statement. declaration that it was not clear whether they would be able to strike a deal with the major studios.

Despite first-person testimony, specific examples and our multiple counter-proposals in response to concerns expressed by employers, we remain very distant, they wrote. We have made progress, but employers have indicated that they have done all they need to do.

Since then, teams have increasingly shared their anonymous accounts of brutal working conditions on social media and denounced the excessive salaries of CEOs. An article on the IA Stories Instagram page estimates that the ratio of CEO pay to grip is 200 to 1, and that of an art department coordinator is 536 to 1.

We are seeing members speaking publicly about their issues in the locals more than in the past, Shipley said.

Among the main sticking points in the negotiations are the long hours. The union is asking for what it describes as a reasonable amount of time between leaving work and returning the next day, as well as penalties for studios that eliminate meal breaks and weekend shifts.

The other big problem is paid streaming. The union argues that pay rates and residuals for streaming shows are unfairly reduced and that crews do not receive credited retirement hours on some shows.

The IATSE is also asking AMPTP for additional funding for its health and pension plans, through an increase in employer contributions as well as new forms of funding to compensate for the decline in residues from traditional distribution networks. Residues, the costs generated by reruns, help fund union health and pension plans.

If employers refuse to engage in substantive negotiations, refuse to change the culture by managing the flow of work, and refuse to put human interests above corporate profits, failure to reach an agreement will be their choice. union leaders said in their August 31 statement. .




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