IATSE Authorizes Potentially Historic Strike in Landslide Vote, Negotiations Continue
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Streaming Contract Negotiations May Auger Future for Other Hollywood Guilds
Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE, voted overwhelmingly earlier this week to authorize a strike if negotiations break down with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The vote to authorize the strike was a landslide with 98.7% of 90% of IATSE members who voted supporting the move, which will allow Matthew D. Loeb, IATSE International president to send 60,000 workers to the picket lines. The authorization is expected to be used as leverage in improving working conditions and compensation for below-the-line film, TV, web content and theater craftspeople and tech personnel (everything from grips and behind-the-camera workers to prop departments and set construction) if negotiations breakdown. At of this news update, negotiations had resumed following a new offer from studios.
The IATSE strike threat has seen even more support than usual from the other Hollywood guilds at least in part because it is seen as setting a standard for future Hollywood contracts in the streaming era. IATSE members have been laboring under streaming (new media) terms set in 2009, which allow streaming platforms not to pay out residuals and to contribute less to pensions and health care than “traditional” media projects. This was also a sticking point in the Writers Guild strike of 2007-08 in which streaming residuals were a major issue. In the time since, streaming has grown to eclipse many traditional media outlets not only in terms of attracting audiences/users but in producing projects with budgets akin to those of Hollywood blockbusters. Other IATSE demands include a 10-hour turnaround between shifts, 54-hour turnaround on weekends, increased base pay, increased meal penalties, and a way to force-stop productions to break for lunch.
If IATSE ends up striking, it will be an historic event. The last time Hollywood crews staged a walkout was almost exactly 76 years ago (Oct. 5, 1945) during World War II, in what was known as “Hollywood’s Bloody Friday” or Hollywood’s Black Friday (aka The War for Warner Bros). At the time, some 10,500 members of the Conference of Studio Unions struck, some IATSE members walked out in solidarity, and clashes with strike breakers ensued.
Notably, strike authorization has come as part of a recent of large-scale strikes, including Kellogg’s, Nabisco, and an upcoming strike from Insta-Cart.
For more on the ongoing IATSE-AMPTP negotiations and potential strike impacts see coverage in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. For historic background, see LA Times and IATSE.