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On the eve of a major strike authorization vote, over 100 members of Congress are asking studios to work with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees “to reach a fair contract and address the basic human needs that will allow them to do their jobs safely and with dignity.”
In a letter sent Thursday to Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers president Carol Lombardini, 120 senators and representatives including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Adam Schiff, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand say that “we support the principles of adequate sleep, meal breaks and living wages for all workers.” IATSE has advocated for amplified rest periods and higher wage floors for certain roles, among other issues, while negotiating two expiring contracts this summer and fall with the AMPTP. Talks broke down earlier in September, and, starting Oct. 1, the union is holding a strike authorization vote that could give its leader the power to call a work stoppage against the film and entertainment industry.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to the AMPTP for comment. Other signatories of the letter include Sen. Alex Padilla, Rep. Ted Lieu, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Karen Bass, Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Katie Porter.
The letter comes after IATSE and entertainment union leaders sent letters to local representatives in California and New York, calling attention to its strike authorization vote and key bargaining issues. IATSE members have also urged one another to contact their legislators during this negotiations period.
In the letter, the group of legislators points to crew workers’ roles in producing entertainment during the pandemic and the fact that production has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in Los Angeles and New York. “The key issues in this negotiation, as we’ve come to understand them, are about worker dignity and basic human necessities,” the Congress members write. “We are unified in our belief in the importance of living wages, sustainable benefits, and reasonable rest periods between shifts and during the workday.”
They add that “a strike would dramatically disrupt the industry, the economy, and the communities we represent. We are hopeful that both sides can negotiate in good faith and reach a consensus agreement, which necessitates both parties continuing to participate in ongoing negotiations.”
If IATSE members vote to authorize a strike, they would not trigger a strike, but would instead hand the union’s international president, Matthew D. Loeb, the power to call a work stoppage if he believes it’s necessary. An overall “yes” vote could provide the union with more leverage in its talks with the AMPTP over the contracts, which affect around 60,000 workers. Voting will take place over the weekend via email.
While IATSE has framed the strike authorization vote as a necessary next step because the AMPTP did not respond to its latest proposal, the AMPTP has said that it offered the union “a deal-closing comprehensive proposal that meaningfully addresses the IATSE’s key bargaining issues.”
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