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On Monday, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) revealed that tens of thousands of its members had voted to authorize a strike against the film and television industry. For the first time in the union’s 128-year history, members — over 98 percent of them, in fact — voted to allow a potential nationwide crew work stoppage.
The “yes” vote does not trigger a strike but instead empowers the union’s international president to call one if deemed necessary in ongoing negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for several contracts. It’s a powerful bargaining chip, as the current contract talks affect around 60,000 industry workers including grips, directors of photography, hairstylists, makeup artists, writers assistants and more nationwide. But even if negotiations between the AMPTP and the union continue to falter — IATSE and AMPTP return to the bargaining table on Tuesday — and IATSE international president Matthew D. Loeb does call a strike, some projects would be directly impacted while others might not see a mass work stoppage.
What Would Likely Be Impacted: The projects in the crosshairs of a potential strike are those that are produced under three different contracts: the Basic Agreement, the Area Standards Agreement (the latter two’s extensions expired Sept. 10) and the Videotape Agreement (which expired Sept. 30). Major film and TV shows from companies including CBS Studios, Columbia Pictures Industries, Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, among others, are produced under the Basic and Area Standards Agreements. (The Basic Agreement covers both West Coast and some national Locals; the Area Standards Agreement generally covers workers employed in areas that are not New York and Los Angeles.) The Basic Agreement also covers production of projects for streamers like Netflix, Apple TV+, Paramount+ and Disney+. Workers on Videotape Agreement-covered content like reality shows, game shows and talk shows from companies like ABC Signature Studios and Cartoon Network Studios would also withhold their labor in a strike.
What May Not Be Impacted: A strike would likely not affect productions linked to the union’s Commercials agreement (effective through Sept. 30, 2022), Low Budget agreement (which is up Dec. 31, 2022), and Pay TV agreement (running through Dec. 31, 2022), so union members operating under those contracts may continue to work. “Those contracts are not up for negotiations right now and for the most part they’re different employers, too,” says a union insider. As a result, union crewmembers working on ads, union productions budgeted under $15 million and HBO, Showtime, Starz and Cinemax-produced projects for their cable channels would likely continue to show up for work.
In a recent meeting, Motion Pictures Editors Guild (Local 700) leadership additionally told members that facility agreements with different expiration dates would remain in effect should IATSE call a strike, including those for Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound, Deluxe Digital Cinema and Burbank-based postproduction facility Level 3. They also reported that Vice Media in New York and Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta have separate postproduction agreements.
“There will be disruption in every part of the industry [if there is a strike],” Local 600 national executive director Rebecca Rhine tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The Pay TV agreement is very narrow in what it covers, and we will not allow agreements to be used to circumvent a strike. Every single production will be looked at carefully to make sure it is appropriately placed and that nothing is being used as a workaround. Ultimately what you want is a resolution that’s quick, and obviously, the first shot at that is to get back to the bargaining table to make a deal.”
“It’s not a single issue, and obviously it’s not a single contract, it is about the future of the workers in this industry, whatever work they do,” Local 600 national president John Lindley says, adding that during the pandemic, “we learned that [the AMPTP signatories] can run profitable businesses while providing safe working conditions.”
Members of IATSE Local 839, the Animation Guild, would likely also not be involved in a strike if it happened. Their master agreement negotiations have been pushed back (a date has not been set for parties to begin talks) as a result of the impasse between the AMPTP and West Coast Locals. Though their agreement initially was set to expire in July, it has been extended until Oct. 30. (One Animation Guild member source says that when those master agreement negotiations do get underway, the Guild will be advocating for “livable wages,” like their counterparts under other contracts.)
Animation Guild business representative Steve Kaplan notes that the language of IATSE’s next Basic Agreement will affect the Animation Guild, however. The Guild’s master agreement “references” language in the Basic Agreement regarding the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans, so “our health plan and pension depends on the IATSE bargaining a favorable Basic Agreement with the AMPTP,” he says. Moreover, the Guild cannot negotiate their agreement until a Basic Agreement deal is reached.
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