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The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) has ratified a new three-year Basic Agreement and Area Standards Agreement, which both narrowly passed with a majority “yes” vote.
In total, 56 percent of the 641 delegate votes from all 36 Locals voting on the Basic and Area Standards Agreements were in favor of the tentative deal, while 44 percent voted “no.” 256 delegates voted “yes” and 188 delegates voted “no” on the Basic Agreement, with eight Locals in favor of the agreement and five Locals against. 103 delegates voted “yes” for the Area Standards Agreement and 94 voted “no,” with 14 Locals supporting the deal and nine Locals rejecting it. (The ratification vote used a delegate system wherein each of the Locals had a certain number of delegate votes, pertaining to their size, that they then contributed to the final vote.)
In terms of the popular vote, the vote was even closer, with 50.3 percent of members voting “yes” and 49.7 percent voting “no” for both agreements. Interestingly, the Basic Agreement was narrowly voted down in the popular vote, with 49.6 percent voting “yes” and 50.4 percent voting “no.” The Area Standards Agreement saw 52 percent vote “yes” and 48 percent vote “no” in the popular vote.
The Basic Agreement was narrowly rejected by Local 600 (International Cinematographers Guild) with a 52 percent “no” vote and just passed in Local 700 (Motion Picture Editors Guild) with a 51.9 percent “yes” vote, the two largest of the 13 Locals and carrying the most weight in the final tally. Other Locals that overall voted “yes” included Local 44, Local 706 and Local 871, while those that voted “no” included Local 80, Local 705, Local 728 and Local 892. 72 percent of all 63,209 eligible union members voted in the contest, which the union framed as a high turnout.
“From start to finish, from preparation to ratification, this has been a democratic process to win the very best contracts,” IATSE international president Matthew Loeb said in a statement. “The vigorous debate, high turnout, and close election, indicates we have an unprecedented movement-building opportunity to educate members on our collective bargaining process and drive more participation in our union long-term.”
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which negotiated the deal on behalf of the studios with the union, said in a statement, “We congratulate IATSE President, Matt Loeb, the IATSE Bargaining Committee and Board for their leadership in achieving ratification of the new contracts. Throughout the negotiations, IATSE leadership advocated changes to improved quality of life for those they represent. These agreements meaningfully reflect the industry’s endorsement of those priorities and keep everyone working.”
The ratification of the contract follows a lengthy and contentious negotiation period that began in May and narrowly avoided a threatened strike. IATSE members were united in a willingness to strike — more than 98 percent of member votes cast authorized a strike as a bargaining tool in an October vote. Ultimately, however, the membership was more divided in this final vote, with many urging a “no” vote and telegraphing their interest in sending IATSE leadership back to the bargaining table. In total, the agreements affect roughly 60,000 film and TV workers.
In recent weeks, the Basic Agreement bargaining committee was recommending a “yes” vote and Locals were holding member meetings to explain the details of the contract, which includes 3 percent annual increases of scale wages that are retroactive, daily 10-hour turnarounds for all and 54- and 32-hour weekend rest periods. Some members also organized their own grassroots meetings to discuss the tentative deal.
The memorandum of agreement (MOA), released to members on Nov. 4, revealed that the union and producers have put together a plan to commission a study on the long-term viability of the union’s health and pension plans, and that they are also planning on continuing discussions over union members missing meal periods. The MOA sketched out more specifics of the agreement’s diversity, equity and inclusion proposals, which include encouraging members to self-identify in union and employer paperwork and establishing an equity-focused training program or programs.
Prior to the release of the MOA, IATSE members were divided about the details they knew about the tentative Basic Agreement. Some said the touted gains on turnaround time and wages weren’t satisfactory and needed to be more dramatic. The recent death of director of photography and Local 600 member Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust — she was killed after a firearm went off during a rehearsal — made this contract even more important in the eyes of some.
The Basic Agreement generally covers work staffed by the union’s 13 West Coast Locals, three of which are national (including Local 600, 700 and 800). The ASA, on the other hand, tends to apply to work done outside the New York and Los Angeles areas, in states like Georgia, Louisiana and New Mexico.
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