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IATSE is set to hold a strike authorization vote after the latest contract talks between the union and producers faltered.
“Today, the AMPTP informed the IATSE that they do not intend to respond to our comprehensive package proposal presented to them over a week ago. This failure to continue negotiating can only be interpreted one way. They simply will not address the core issues we have repeatedly advocated for from the beginning,” international union president Matthew D. Loeb and 13 West Coast Local leaders wrote in a message to members on Monday. “As a result, we will now proceed with a nationwide strike authorization vote to demonstrate our commitment to achieving the change that is long overdue in this industry.”
The vote, which allows international union president Loeb to order a strike if members authorize it, at the very least pertains to all 13 West Coast locals of the union that are currently in talks for a three-year basic agreement, a group that includes Locals 44, 80, 600, 695, 700, 705, 706, 728, 729, 800, 871, 884 and 892. IATSE represents over 150,000 entertainment workers in the U.S. and Canada, including editors, grips, operators, cinematographers, sound technicians, costumers, make-up, hair stylists, writers assistants, script coordinators and others. Loeb, who was re-elected in July, has led the union since 2008.
IATSE uses a delegate system for strike authorization votes, wherein each Local has a particular number of delegate votes and if 75 percent or more of that Local’s eligible members vote to authorize, all of those delegate votes are counted as a “Yes.”
In response to IATSE’s announcement, the AMPTP said in a statement on Monday that “The AMPTP put forth a deal-closing comprehensive proposal that meaningfully addresses the IATSE’s key bargaining issues,” including “paying the nearly $400 million pension and health plan deficit” and also making “substantial improvements in rest periods, increases in wages and benefits, increases in minimum rates for specific job categories and increases in minimum rates for New Media Productions.” The AMPTP added, “In choosing to leave the bargaining table to seek a strike authorization vote, the IATSE leadership walked away from a generous comprehensive package.”
The decision arrives after a protracted summer of stops and starts in negotiations between the union representing much of the industry’s crew members and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of the studios and producers and whose lead negotiator is AMPTP president Carol Lombardini. Though talks began in mid-May, they were delayed twice before resuming again in mid-August, after which point the union began warning members that its negotiators and producers remained “very far apart” in their vision for a contract. The basic agreement expired on Sept. 10, though members have been informed to continue to work under their old agreement until told otherwise. The AMPTP and IATSE negotiators were set to meet again early this week.
Though both the union and the AMPTP are subject to a press blackout during negotiations and specifics on the talks are being kept under wraps, the union has told members that sticking points include codifying adequate rest periods, more compensation from streaming and “new media” projects and funding for its pension and health plan.
In its statement on Monday, the AMPTP said major components of its proposed package included an “economic package for all IATSE members consistent with agreements reached with other unions before the pandemic,” higher minimum rates for specific kinds of “New Media” productions with an average 18 percent increase, an increase in minimum pay rates between 10 and 19 percent for assistant production office coordinators, art department coordinators, writers’ room assistants and script coordinators, “meaningful improvements in rest periods” for workers on first-season TV shows and postproduction employees on series TV shows, pilots, feature films and distant location and coverage of a projected $400 million deficit for the IATSE Pension and Health Plan over the next three years. The package also proposed adding Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday and an agreement on DEI initiatives, the Alliance added.
As talks dragged on between the two sides over the summer, union members spearheaded two separate social media campaigns that have activated and galvanized colleagues. Members of IATSE Local 871 launched the #IALivingWage hashtag, which saw script coordinators, writers assistants, assistant production coordinators and art department coordinators discussing their financial struggles in crafts that all have contractual minimum pay rates of less than $18 an hour. One script coordinator told The Hollywood Reporter in July that the hashtag was necessary because “the AMPTP is balking at our request for a rate increase that would allow our members to have a living wage in Los Angeles.” On social media, several Local 871 members suggested $25 an hour with a 60-hour-a-week guarantee.
In July, a set lighting technician also started an Instagram account, @ia_stories, which anonymously shared stories of long hours on film sets. The account, which now has over 70,000 followers, additionally shares updates on IATSE negotiations and supports the union’s fight in producer talks for a living wage, “sustainable benefits” and real rest periods. On Thursday the account claimed Instagram had blocked it from posting because “they think we used a service to increase our followers so quickly… which — while annoying — is kinda awesome.”
Sept. 20, 6:52 p.m. Updated to include the AMPTP’s statement.
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