IATSE, 11 Locals Urge Members to Ratify Contract

"Your bargaining committee made significant progress," reads a letter to members signed by IATSE international president Matthew D. Loeb and 11 of the 13 represented Locals.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
IATSE international president Matthew D. Loeb

IATSE international president Matthew D. Loeb and the leaders of 11 of the 13 affected Locals sent a letter urging members to vote "yes" to ratify its proposed contract, saying that it meet and exceeded its "ambitious goals."

IATSE, the union that represents most unionized film and TV crew members, and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on July 26 reached a tentative deal on a new three-year contract.

Missing from the letter is the endorsements of Local 700, Motion Picture Editors Guild, whose board voted unanimously on Saturday to urge members to vote "no;" and Local 871, script supervisors/continuity, coordinators, accountants & allied production specialists, which is recommending a "yes" vote while saying it's "not a perfect contract," in a separate letter sent to its members on Wednesday.

"We had ambitious goals for the 2018 Basic Agreement, each one fundamental to improving the lives and futures of IATSE members," according to the IATSE letter (published below), which outlines its arguments for ratification. "We set out to: secure wage increases of 3% per year; protect our health and pension plans; increase benefit contributions from all employers, including those producing streaming content; improve safety and quality of life; improve rest periods; [and] expand and improve wages, terms and conditions for work on streaming platforms. We are proud to say the tentative agreement achieved this and more."

The Local 700 board's opposition to the contract centers on how the pension and heath care plans will be funded, as well as areas such as turnaround time. These points were presented Wednesday on its website.

Each individual member of IATSE will now cast a vote on whether or not to ratify the agreement. When the votes are tabulated, the process works like an electoral college: The members' votes are counted on a Local by Local basis, and the majority determines whether that Local will vote in favor or against ratification. Each Local will cast a certain number of votes depending on the size of the Local, just as the electoral college gives the most populated states the most votes.

The largest Locals, which have the most votes, are Local 600 (International Cinematographers) and Local 700 (Motion Picture Editors). The other Locals include 11 other constituents of IATSE's West Coast Studio Locals: Local 44 (Affiliated Property Craftspersons), Local 80 (Studio Grips, Crafts Service, Set Medics, Marine Department and Warehouse Workers), Local 695 (Production Sound Technicians, Television Engineers, Video Assist Technicians and Studio Projectionists), Local 705 (Motion Picture Costumers), Local 706 (Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists), Local 728 (Studio Electrical Lighting Technicians), Local 729 (Set Painters and Sign Writers), Local 800 (Art Directors), Local 884 (Studio Teachers), Local 871 (Stage & Picture Operators) and Local 892 (Costume Designers).

The current IATSE Basic Agreement expired July 31. IATSE members will work under the current contract until the results of this vote are available, expected to be late August or early September. The Hollywood Reporter has learned that, as is often the case, the ratification will be deemed retroactive, in this case to Aug. 1.

The full IATSE letter follows.

Sisters and Brothers,

Over the past three years (and even in recent months) we have all witnessed deep changes occurring in all sectors of the entertainment industry. We are in an era of dramatic transformation, and these changing dynamics are expected to continue on an industry-wide scale. To adapt and meet these new circumstances, we had ambitious goals for the 2018 Basic Agreement, each one fundamental to improving the lives and futures of IATSE members. We set out to:

•  Secure wage increases of 3% per year;
•  Protect our health and pension plans;
•  Increase benefit contributions from all employers, including those producing streaming content;
•  Improve safety and quality of life; 
•  Improve rest periods;
•  Expand and improve wages, terms and conditions for work on streaming platforms.

We are proud to say the tentative agreement achieved this and more.

After months of numerous and difficult bargaining sessions, the IATSE West Coast Studio Locals overwhelmingly stand side-by-side in recommending the agreement reached on July 26th. The tentative agreement improves wages and working conditions while also securing the health of the benefit funds for over 40,000 IATSE members and their families. We made these advancements with no increase in out-of-pocket healthcare costs to members, no reduction in the quality of members’ healthcare, and no decline in members’ working conditions.

We secured additional hourly contributions to our benefit plans from the employers, ensuring the future strength of the plans. Some companies, including those independents that produce content for streaming services, will contribute an additional $0.75 per hour in each year of the agreement, while those companies that have paid residuals in excess of $15 million will contribute an additional $0.40 per hour over the term of the agreement. In addition to their ongoing residual obligation, by structuring the increased benefit contributions in this way, we will secure more money to fund the plans from content produced for streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, and reduce the subsidy for companies that have no residual obligations.

These additional contributions will add $153 million into our health plan over the life of the agreement, with no erosion to benefits or coverage, and at no cost to members. It is important to note that future pension increases and 13th/14th checks for pre-2009 retirees are tied to reserves in the health plan.

A new funding mechanism for theatrical-length streaming content that wouldn’t otherwise generate a residual or supplemental market payment will now result in additional monies for our pension plan. The producers agreed to a lump-sum payment on live action and animated streaming features, when also released theatrically. This is in addition to an existing residual that is triggered when traditional content moves to online platforms, which produced over $90 million in funding for the Pension Plan in 2017.

Quality of life improvements were also of paramount importance and our gains will mean more personal time and safer working conditions. For hourly and weekly on-production and off-production employees on one-hour dramatic and half-hour single-camera series beyond season one and mini-series, a minimum daily ten-hour turnaround will become the new standard for local and nearby hires. Crew members with less than a 10-hour turnaround will receive an improved rest period on feature and long-form productions after the second consecutive 14-hour day.  

Hourly and weekly post-production employees will also gain an additional hour of turnaround across the board for similar series and content, and two 14-hour consecutive days will trigger a nine-hour turnaround on those types of productions.  

In addition, the producers will provide roundtrip transportation or courtesy housing for all bargaining unit members who work in excess of 14 hours, or 12 hours in some circumstances.

On-call employees will receive an increase to twelve hours of health and pension benefit contributions for each sixth and seventh days worked. Not only does this more closely reflect the amount of work performed by these members but it will result in additional qualifying hours and pension benefits.

Multiple improvements were negotiated for wages, terms and conditions covering a wide range of budget thresholds for streaming content. New media features over $30 million will be produced under the full Basic Agreement, instead of the long-form sideletter, and a new mid-range new media budget tier has been added, capturing wages, terms and conditions for work that was previously fully negotiable.

Training and safety are of paramount importance to the IATSE. The stipend for CSATF training classes will be increased by $5 per hour effective August 1, 2019; the confusing and limiting “new media roster” will be absorbed by the Industry Experience Roster, providing more flexibility for members working throughout our industry.  

The parties are committed to workforces that are reflective of the demographics of their communities and have agreed to the creation of a diversity and inclusion task force.

We went into bargaining focused on protecting the pension and health plan, and this tentative agreement achieves our goals. There will be no cuts to pension and health benefits under this agreement.

Your bargaining committee made significant progress on each of our key priorities. For this reason, the West Coast Studio Locals overwhelmingly endorse this agreement.

This is not an exhaustive list of the gains achieved in this Agreement. Once the final contract language is agreed to, the Local Unions will send all of the information you need to make an informed decision about ratification. When it comes time to vote, we encourage you to vote yes.  

In Solidarity,

Matthew D. Loeb, International President
Ed Brown, Business Agent, Local 44
Thom Davis, Business Agent, Local 80
Rebecca Rhine, National Executive Director, Local 600
Scott Bernard, Business Agent, Local 695
David Swope, Business Agent, Local 705
Tommy Cole, Business Agent, Local 706
Patric Abaravich, Business Representative/Corresponding Secretary, Local 728
Robert Denne, Business Agent, Local 729
Chuck Parker, National Executive Director, Local 800
Doug Boney, Business Agent, Local 884
Rachael Stanley, Executive Director, Local 892