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One day after IATSE announced a tentative strike date of Oct. 18 against film and television studios, the union is offering members guidance on who would and wouldn’t be on strike, whether striking members can collect unemployment, and if they risk losing their health care in the event of a work stoppage.
In a “2021 Strike FAQs” document sent to Locals’ members Thursday, the union gives new details about a strike that it has said will begin Monday, Oct. 18, at 12:01 a.m. PT if contract talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) are not resolved by the end of the weekend. In the document the union confirms that if a strike is called, the union’s 13 West Coast Locals will go on strike, including three with members nationwide (Locals 600, 700 and 800). The union added that Studio Mechanics nationwide, as well as Local 161, Local USA-829 members and Local 798 members in select areas, would go on strike.
The contracts that would remain in effect during a strike include the union’s Sports Broadcasting, Low Budget Theatrical and Pay Television Agreements, as well as the Commercial and Music Video Production Agreements, and select independent agreements. “You must check with the Local about any job before you continue to perform or accept new work,” the document tells members. “We will be coordinating closely about what work is not struck, and will be contacting the few members who are not required to strike in the event a strike is called.”
On Monday, members are advised to check their emails in the morning before going to work to determine whether a strike is in effect. If a strike is occurring, members will be expected to picket at a studio, their work location, or other location determined by their Local, the union says.
The union also states the consequences for “scabbing,” or working while a strike is ongoing or taking a striking worker’s place. Members who cross a picket line “will be in violation of the IATSE Constitution and Bylaws and will be subject to discipline by their Local and the International,” which could include fines, being subject to “public censure,” being suspended or expelled. Non-IATSE members who scab “jeopardize ever becoming members of this great Alliance,” the document says. The union further adds that it asks all workers not to do IATSE-covered work during a strike.
Should IATSE call a strike, the union related that employers are “legally required” to arrange and pay for union workers to return home with their gear, whether they are working within or outside the U.S. “You will need to take the return trip offer as they will not be required to continue housing you if you refuse the offer,” the union explains in the document. “If you are approached about being ‘held’ with the payment of hold fees, that is inconsistent with being on strike and you should insist on being sent home.”
The union also said that members can reclaim “personal equipment or equipment that is sub-rented by you. You should plan to do so before leaving work on Friday, October 15 or at the end of your last day of employment prior to Monday, October 18. … Once the strike begins, you should not be wrapping any rental gear or other employer equipment as that is solely part of your work that is struck work.” Those working from home are instructed to notify employers to retrieve employer-provided equipment.
The financial impact on individual members will vary due to factors including their state of residence. According to IATSE’s FAQs, “almost all” states prohibit striking workers from collecting unemployment insurance, including California. Exceptions include New York, where members working under the Basic Agreement or Area Standards Agreement could apply for unemployment benefits after 14 days; and New Jersey, where union workers could apply after 30 days.
Members who are already collecting unemployment benefits remain eligible, according to the FAQs, which also explain that “members may be eligible” should employers impose a lockout.
The impact on an individual’s MPI Plans may also vary. For instance, health care eligibility is based upon hours worked and hours banked.
Any allowances pertaining to dues during a strike will be decided by each Local’s leaders, and the same is true of a potential strike fund, where individual Locals may offer assistance. But IATSE warns, “While there may be some limited help for those most in need, during a strike you can expect to go without pay. You would not be prohibited from taking work outside of the industry in a totally unrelated industry or area.”
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