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As tens of thousands of IATSE members are asked to vote on whether to give International president Matthew Loeb authorization to call a strike, members on Saturday spoke up about the issues while hosting drive-through car painting with pro-union messages in the parking lots of the Hollywood headquarters of the International Cinematographers Guild (Local 600) and Motion Picture Editors Guild (Local 700), which are adjacent to one another on Sunset Blvd.
“The members are coming together to speak with one voice about the very basic things that they are fighting for,” including improved working conditions with rest periods, higher minimum wages and more streaming compensation, asserted Rebecca Rhine, national executive director of Local 600. “This is one of many gatherings around the country where people are encouraging each other to stay strong and vote and stand for safety and equity. It’s a fight about fairness and safety and dignity.”
The vote, which began on Friday and concludes today, asks members — including cinematographers, camera operators, picture and sound editors, hair stylists, makeup artists and script coordinators — for authorization to call a strike should the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees decide it is the best course of action in its negotiations with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which have so far failed to produce a new three-year basic agreement for the 13 locals that work under the contract.
Local 600, which represents 9,000 workers, and Local 700, representing 8,500, are the largest of the 13 locals representing an estimated 60,000 IATSE members that work under this agreement. Members from Locals 600 and 700, as well as members from additional locals including the Local 800 (Art Directors Guild) were on hand on Saturday.
“We have never seen this level of enthusiasm or unity from all of these locals together,” said Local 600 national president John Lindley of the union solidarity he has observed going into the vote.
“We’re just exhausted,” said first assistant camera Carman Spoto, a Local 600 member who came out on Saturday. “They have been pumping out content for giant companies like Amazon and Netflix and we are not breaking for lunch for 16-, 17-hour days.” She cited one pilot that, with overages, cost $20 million to make “and we were still doing 16-, 17-hour days and not taking a meal break. … They are scheduling not having meal breaks; it’s not an accident anymore.” She added, “our turnarounds were only nine hours a night, max.”
Related one Local 800 member who requested anonymity, “The last few shows I have worked on have been new media deals. [There are] varying contracts, but you get offered way less money to work on just as big a show. I have worked on shows where I have worked 100 days in a row without a day off. There’s not the work-life balance that that we have had in this industry any longer.”
Added Local 800 graphic designer Alex Maziekien, “There’s been times where I have had to be ready to work overtime, sometimes 12-hour days, sometimes even longer than that, and that’s without a moment’s notice. Having a personal life is pretty difficult. Forget going to the doctor or making time for the dentist, that stuff you just have to wait until your job’s over to take care of yourself.”
Jason Brotman, a Local 700 assistant editor, described how long shooting days trickle down and impact postproduction workers. “We are expected to keep up with dailies, so if they are shooting longer and longer days, we have to get through more and more footage to keep up,” he explained. “Some editors will work weekends and just not bill it because they don’t want to ruffle feathers. Some people will work late and not bill it because they don’t want to ruffle feathers. There is a lot of fear that if you actually put down the amount of work that they are having us do, it’s going to have some blowback.”
Said Lindley, “It’s pretty clear that the employers didn’t take us seriously during the seven weeks of bargaining. They didn’t address some of our core issues, and this strike authorization vote is an effort to get them to take us seriously — and I’d be shocked if they don’t, after seeing what is going on.”
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. The results of the strike authorization vote are expected to be announced Oct. 4.
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