IATSE Members Can Do “Sympathy Strikes” And Honor Picket Lines Even If Not On Strike

·5 min read

With contract negotiations coming down to the wire, IATSE says that members not directly involved in a threatened work stoppage can still engage in “sympathy strikes.” Members can refuse to cross a picket line at their worksites if they chose to do so as a matter of “conscience.”

The union says it will launch its first nationwide strike Sunday night at the stroke of midnight if it can’t reach a fair deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Union officials say that they’ve been making “progress” at the bargaining table, but don’t have a deal yet.

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In the event of a strike, not all of the union’s members will have to walk off their jobs. A strike, if it comes to that, will affect most films and TV shows, but not those governed by contracts other than the ones currently being negotiated – the Basic Agreement and the Area Standards Agreement, which cover some 60,000 workers nationwide. Low-budget movies, music videos, most game shows and talk shows, and shows made for HBO, Showtime and other pay-TV channels will not be on strike.

“All workers have a right under the National Labor Relations Act to support other strikers,” the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, told members on its website. “These are called sympathy strikes. They have long been recognized as lawful, protected activity. If you work for an employer that is not subject to a strike, you can still respect the picket line if one is established at your worksite.”

The local noted, however, that “Your right to respect these lawful picket lines may depend on the language of the collective bargaining agreement with your employer.”

“Generally, a simple no-strike clause may not apply to sympathy strikes, and you will have the right to respect the picket line against an individual employer,” the union says. “You lose that right only if there is clear evidence in the contract or other evidence that the right to respect another union’s picket line (that is, withhold work in support of another union’s strike) is waived.”

The local, which has national jurisdiction over films and TV productions, said that members “have a right to honor a lawful picket line” at their job sites even if they’re working under a contract that’s not directly involved in the dispute.

These include IATSE’s Low Budget Theatrical Agreement; the Pay Television Agreement; the Commercial Production Agreement; the Music Video Production Agreement; the Sony Picture Animation Agreement, and several other contracts, including the Horizon Alternative Television & Horizon Productions, Inc. agreements; the Secret Lab & The Traveling Lab agreements; the Cranetown & FRB Productions low-budget dramatic & non-dramatic agreements; the Beachwood Services, Inc. Agreement, and the It’s A Laugh Productions, Inc. Agreement.

“Please keep in mind that some contracts require the Union to encourage you to return to work in these circumstances,” the local said. “However, that does not impact your legal right to observe a lawful picket line. You must follow your conscience.”

The local urged members to contact their union representatives “if there is any concern about whether your agreement prevents you from respecting a picket line,” and noted that, “There may be circumstances where picket lines must be limited to certain areas or times. Your representatives will monitor the situation to make sure the rules about lawful pickets are followed.”

The Cinematographers Guild will hold a virtual town hall meeting on Sunday at 9 AM PT to answer members’ questions and give an update on the state of the negotiations. The local noted, however, that “The date and time of this meeting may be subject to change, based on bargaining.”

Chuck Parker, national executive director of the Art Directors Guild, IATSE Local 800, told his members Friday night that “We’re making progress but have not reached the goal line yet. Stay informed and be prepared.”

IATSE has also put out 10 ways for members “to prepare for a strike,” saying that “A strike is our last resort. But if and when a strike becomes necessary, it is important to be prepared. Below are some steps to help prepare you for a strike.”

1. Update your contact information with the union. Make sure the union has your current home address, cell phone number, and email address so you can stay informed on the latest developments.
2. Take stock of your financial situation. Fill out a budget, reduce what spending you can, and try to save a little out of each paycheck – starting now.
3. Keep bills current. Creditors are more likely to work with you when you’re on strike if you’ve paid your bills on time in the past.
4. Contact your utility companies. Contact your utility companies (electric, water, gas, cable/Internet) to let them know you may have to go on strike and to ask about options for alternative payment plans.
5. Postpone major purchases. If you can get by without making a major purchase, wait until the contract is settled.
6. Avoid credit purchases and reduce your credit card debt if you can. You may rely on your credit card if you are on strike. Consider signing up for the Union Plus credit card, which is willing to work with union members on strike.
7. Stock up on food and medicine. Use your health insurance to stock up on medicines you need and stock up on non-perishable food for the future.
8. Use your health insurance now. Take advantage of your current health insurance coverage and schedule any doctor’s appointments you need for yourself and your children now.
9. File your taxes early. Take advantage of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program for free assistance with filing your taxes. Find a site nearest you on the IRS website.
10. Support your coworkers and stick together!

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