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Hollywood crews near strike could be a sign of things to come




The day before Los Angeles Art Department Coordinator Crystal Hopkins voted against her union’s new contract proposal, she resigned as president of Local 871.

Hopkins said she is resigning from the job she won in 2018 in part over concerns over the new deal negotiated by the International Alliance of Theater Workers.

I couldn’t carry publicly, or in good conscience, an agreement that I felt did not reflect the will of the members, Hopkins said in an interview.

The resignation was a blow to union leaders, who have long relied on the heads of its various locals representing costume designers, stagehands, props, make-up artists and other film set workers to rally to the contracts they negotiate.

Although the contract was narrowly ratified, a slight majority of IATSE members on the west coast rejected the proposed deal, reflecting deep discord in the ranks.

The tight vote portends a new era of union activism within the 128-year-old union and could pose an obvious challenge for the leadership of IATSE president Matthew Loeb, union members and labor experts said .

Loeb, who was first elected in 2008, was appointed by shop stewards for another four-year term in July after running unopposed. Loeb may in the future face opposition from younger and more militant members who have been impatient with deteriorating working conditions and IATSE’s long tradition of avoiding nationwide walkouts. . IATSE members in October overwhelmingly supported a strike authorization vote for the first time in its history.

I would be shocked if there weren’t a wave of activist-driven leadership changes in most locals, said Jason Brotman, associate editor and co-chair of Local 700’s young workers group, the Motion Picture Editors Guild. Members who started their careers following the Great Recession have very little tolerance for the status quo. AI is going to be a much more militant union in the future.

In a sign of change, five of the 13 West Coast locals within IATSE, which represent around 40,000 workers in the film industry, rejected the proposed contract. By comparison, 12 West Coast locals endorsed the previous contract.

I think that’s pretty shocking, said Steve Ross, professor of history at the University of Southern California who specializes in Hollywood unions. Grassroots workers feel they have not been listened to.

An IATSE spokesperson declined to comment.

For his part, Loeb has welcomed the contract, even calling it a Hollywood ending.

From start to finish, from preparation to ratification, it has been a democratic process to win the best contracts, Loeb said in a recent statement. The vigorous debate, high turnout and close elections indicate that we have an unprecedented opportunity to create a movement to educate members on our collective bargaining process and foster greater long-term participation in our union.

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Loeb cited a number of significant gains in the new contract, which covers 60,000 workers in the film and television industry across the country.

The contract provides for 54 hours of guaranteed rest after five-day weeks and 3 percent pay increases in line with other unions. Producers also agreed to increase pay for the lowest-paid trades and cover a $ 370 million shortfall in IATSE’s health and pension plans, which faced higher costs during the pandemic.

Everyone got a little something from that contract, said Hollywood makeup artist Geneva Nash-Morgan, who has been a union member for 33 years. This is one of the best contracts I have ever seen.

After a month of negotiations, many union members expected more. They argued the deal did not do enough to improve working conditions and reduce long hours on sets, a long-standing complaint. Teams could still work 14 hours a day, for example.

As IATSE leaders began negotiations with producers in May, workers’ moods changed this summer and fall as talks dragged on.

The conversation had changed and I’m not sure if she was given the space and deference she really deserved, Hopkins said. It was just all like an instant culture change.

October 21 Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’ fatal shooting on the set of Alec Baldwin’s film Rust in New Mexico further heightened concerns about unsafe working conditions.

Someone on the fence said, you know what? Enough is enough, said Brotman, who voted against the contract. There is now grassroots connection and communication between members of the industry and there is literally no way to stop it.

Local 80, which represents handles like Patrick Blake who hauls heavy equipment, had the largest non-vote margin among West Coast locals, with 70 percent of 2,616 votes rejecting the contract.

Blake wanted a guaranteed 12 hour turnaround time between shoots like the actors did. The contract provides for a minimum turnaround time of 10 hours.

It’s just enough to keep us going without ruffling too many feathers along the way, said Blake, a 26-year industry veteran. Were going to be at another dead end in a short time because this is just a pacifier.

– By Anousha Sakoui, Los Angeles Times




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