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The members of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, Local 700, voted unanimously to recommend to members that they vote “Yes” in support of a strike authorization regarding the Basic Agreement negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) is set to hold a strike authorization vote after the latest talks between the union and the producers failed to produce an agreement. A “Yes” for authorization will require at least 75 percent of the members who vote in each Local, which would be issued by delegate votes. A “Yes” vote would give IATSE president Matthew Loeb authorization to call a strike should leadership decide this is the best course of action.
IATSE represents an estimated 150,000 entertainment workers in the U.S. and Canada, including cinematographers, costumers, make-up artists and hair stylists. The Editors Guild — which represents an estimated 8,000 picture and sound editors as well as additional postproduction workers — is among the largest of the 13 Locals that are currently in talks for the three-year basic agreement.
The International Cinematographers Guild (Local 600) — the largest of the Locals represented by the Basic Agreement — has held multiple online Guild meetings this past week, with ICG leadership providing current information as the situation progresses, according to one prominent member. “A lot of organizations in the motion picture industry are coming around toward common goals,” this source tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We see where the future revenue is with streaming residuals, and we are seeing [work hours] are increasing. It’s the right time to address this.”
Calling it a “historic moment,” Local 700 national executive director Cathy Repola and president Alan Heim alerted members of the Guild’s recommendation for “overwhelming support” via email on Wednesday. “It’s time to stand together, to seek the changes in working conditions that all members so desperately deserve, and Local 700 continues to advocate to secure the long-term sustainability of the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans,” a portion of the email reads.
On Sept. 18, Local 700 hosted a roughly four-hour online meeting with an estimated 2,800 Guild members, during which it discussed the implications of a strike authorization vote. It is understood that Repola said that they are fighting to change a system “that has allowed for the excessive overworking of workers for decades.”
In 2018, the Editors Guild voted against ratifying the basic agreement that expired Sept. 10, though workers continue to work under its terms. In 2018, Local 700 was the only one of the 13 impacted Locals to vote “No.” This time, the Editors Guild suggested in its email, the Locals are united.
At issue are subjects including turnaround time, wages, contributions to pension and health plans and streaming residuals. It is understood that Repola told members that, at this point, AMPTP has indicated “that they absolutely will not grant us new residuals or enhance the existing ones.”
Should the negotiations result in a strike, it would impact all members working under the Basic Agreement. According to the Guild, there are exceptions for agreements that haven’t yet expired, for instance certain Pay TV deals and facility agreements from companies such as Skywalker Sound, Level 3 and Tyler Perry Studios.
Additional information presented during the meeting: If a Guild member doesn’t have enough hours and is not working, the individual could lose health plan coverage, forcing them onto COBRA. For crews working on location, the employer is responsible for paying for travel to return home. For those working remotely, the company would be responsible for picking up company-provided equipment such as editing systems. In California, workers would not be eligible to collect unemployment for withholding services as part of a strike, though this varies by state. In New York, workers are eligible to apply after 14 days, and in New Jersey, after 30 days.
During the meeting, Local 700 leadership also reported that the IATSE Area Standards Agreement contract, representing 30 Locals around the country, also expired Sept. 10 and negotiations face similar “roadblocks.”
In the email to members, the MPEG Board acknowledged the “potential financial hardships” and said it doesn’t take its recommendation lightly. The Guild told members it “intends to stand with you” and develop a plan to provide “some economic relief.”
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