Crisis in Hollywood averted as IATSE strike is avoided, for now

Production crew members have reached a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers after threatening to strike over wages and working conditions.

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An agreement was reached between IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) shortly before the IATSE was to begin an Oct. 18 strike.

But how long will the peace last?

The IASTE, a union comprised of over 150,000 film and television production workers, including grips, gaffers, editors, and designers, initially agreed to engage a full work stoppage at midnight Sunday, as reported by Variety. With 98 percent of the 60,000 members affected by the contracts agreeing to strike, it would’ve effectively put countless productions in Hollywood on an indefinite hold.

Entertainment Industry Workers Vote To Strike, Threatening Hollywood Productions
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 07: The historic Hollywood sign is viewed on October 07, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. The IATSE union which represents Hollywood’s film and television production crews voted to authorize a strike, calling for better working conditions and higher pay amid a surge in streaming demand. Negotiations are ongoing but a strike may be imminent. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Negotiations with the AMPTP over successor contracts stalled at first. The IASTE issued a statement on its official website, disclosing its demands and issues with the AMPTP. Grievances included “excessively unsafe and harmful working hours,” receiving “unlivable wages” and “consistent failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks.”

“We risked our health and safety all year, working through the Pandemic to ensure that our business emerged intact,” read the statement. “Now, we cannot and will not accept a deal that leaves us with an unsustainable outcome.”

The terms of the three-year agreement reached on Oct. 16 were disclosed by the IASTE. They were able to achieve the following:

  • Achievement of a living wage for the lowest-paid earners
  • Improved wages and working conditions for streaming
  • Retroactive wage Increases of 3 percent annually
  • Increased meal period penalties
  • Daily rest periods of 10 hours without exclusions
  • Weekend rest periods of 54 hours
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday holiday added to schedule
  • Adoption of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives  

Mike Miller, Vice President and Motion Picture Director for IATSE, spoke of the new agreement, “Our members will see significant improvements, but our employers also will benefit. This settlement allows pre-production, production and post-production to continue without interruption. Workers should have improved morale and be more alert. Health and safety standards have been upgraded.”

While the agreement is an improvement, it still needs to be ratified by IASTE members, and numerous members are not satisfied with the terms of the tentative deal. Although members will return to work for the time being, ratification voting won’t happen for several weeks, and some have voiced their displeasure.

California Lifts All Restrictions On Film Production
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JULY 01: Camera assist Rigel “Che” Yaluk prepares camera during production of the indie feature film, “The Star City Murders” on July 01, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Effective June 15, 2021, Los Angeles County has retired the health protocols specific to film, television, and commercial production. However, many unions, such as SAG-AFTRA, provides supplemental precautionary guidelines as detailed in “The Safe Way Forward,” including, but not limited to: continued Covid-19 testing, temperature checks, PPE for crew, and use of “Zones.” (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Ernesto Lomeli, a Los Angeles-based director of photography, states that working condition issues have not been addressed. As it stands, the agreement calls for a 54-hour weekend with a 10-hour turnaround time between shifts. Lomeli doubts anyone will vote to ratify the deal. “Basically nothing has changed,” Lomeli said. “I have not heard a single person saying they will vote yes.”

A bullseye was put on IASTE last year by high profile Black and Latino stars, who criticized it and white-owned theaters for not employing more BIPOC below-the-line workers and having substandard working conditions. The statement was signed by prominent actors including Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Cynthia Erivo, Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry.

“About theaters, executive leaders, critics, casting directors, agents, unions, commercial producers, universities, and training programs. You are a part of this house of cards built on white fragility and supremacy. And this is a house that will not stand,” read the statement.

In a joint statement, International President Matthew Loeb and General Secretary Treasurer James Woods said they would “reshape” the union, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. “We acknowledge that we have not always lived up to our own values and ideals of unionism, through our action, inaction, apathy, and at times ambivalence.”

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