IATSE To Seek Strike Authorization From Members

·6 min read

IATSE moved one step closer to a strike against the film and TV industry companies Monday, telling its members that it will now ask them for strike authorization.

“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,” the union leaders said in a message to members. “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. 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.”

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The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said in a statement that it “put forth a deal-closing comprehensive proposal that meaningfully addresses the IATSE’s key bargaining issues, and that “in choosing to leave the bargaining table to seek a strike authorization vote, the IATSE leadership walked away from a generous comprehensive package.”

See the AMPTP’s full statement below.

A strike-authorization vote does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike – only that the members give their leaders the authorization to call for a walkout if they are unable to reach an eleventh-hour agreement.

The union’s current contract had been set to expire July 31 but was extended through September 10, the union says, “in an effort to exhaust every opportunity to make a deal.”

Last Wednesday, IATSE president Matthew Loeb said that negotiations had “reached a critical juncture,” noting that “we are united in demanding more humane working conditions across the industry, including reasonable rest during and between workdays and on the weekend, equitable pay on streaming productions, and a livable wage floor.”

The next day, he told members that the union was awaiting a response from the AMPTP to the union’s latest package of contract proposals as it continues its “mobilization” for a possible strike.

Over the weekend, two of the union’s largest locals – the International Cinematographers Guild Local 600 and the Editors Guild Local 700 – held informational meetings to update their members on the status of the negotiations. By all accounts, the members are ready to strike if they have to to get a fair contract.

An industrywide strike against film and TV production, if it comes to that, will be the first in the union’s history.

All 13 of the union’s West Coast Studio Locals will now hold a secret authorization vote simultaneously, conducted electronically by a balloting service through email.

For any Local to pass a strike authorization, at least 75% of those voting must vote “Yes” in support of a strike authorization. Just like in the Basic Agreement ratification process, a Local’s delegate votes will reflect the members’ votes. So, a local with 1,000 votes returned would need 750 “Yes” votes in order to support the strike authorization. If the local does not reach that threshold, all that local’s delegate votes would be counted as “No.” A simple majority of the delegate votes in the bargaining unit will determine the outcome.

The AMPTP’s full statement:

The AMPTP put forth a deal-closing comprehensive proposal that meaningfully addresses the IATSE’s key bargaining issues. When we began negotiations with the IATSE months ago, we discussed the economic realities and the challenges facing the entertainment industry as we work to recover from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The IATSE came to the bargaining table with several priority initiatives including addressing its pension and health plan deficit, longer rest periods and meal breaks, wage increases and outsized minimum rate increases for specific job categories. The AMPTP listened and addressed many of the IATSE demands, including paying the nearly $400 million pension and health plan deficit. The package includes 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. While neither party is getting everything it wanted this bargaining cycle, this package recognizes the crucial role IATSE crew members play as we continue to move our industry forward and provide employment for thousands of employees who work on productions.

In choosing to leave the bargaining table to seek a strike authorization vote, the IATSE leadership walked away from a generous comprehensive package. Key components include:

· Economic package for all IATSE members consistent with agreements reached with other unions before the pandemic.

· Improve minimum rates (on average 18% increase) on certain types of New Media productions.

· The IATSE Pension and Health Plan is expected to have a deficit of $400 million over the next three years. In this proposal, the employers will cover the projected deficit of nearly $400 million without imposing premium payments for the no-cost single employee health coverage and without increasing the extremely low cost of dependent health coverage, deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance. Without this infusion of contributions, the reserve level in the Active Health Plan is projected to fall from 17.5 months as of the end of 2020 to 3.1 months as of the end of 2024, and the reserve level in the Retiree Health Plan is projected to fall from 14.4 months as of the end of 2020 to 2.1 months as of the end of 2024. Reserves are critical because they enabled the Directors of the Health Plan to continue coverage for thousands of participants during the pandemic without any additional cost.

· Meaningful improvements in rest periods for those working on first season series television, for post-production personnel assigned to/employed on series television, pilots, feature films and distant location.

· A considerable increase in minimum rates (increases ranging from 10% to 19%) for Assistant Production Office Coordinators, Art Department Coordinators, Writers’ Room Assistants and Script Coordinators.

· Addition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday.

· Agreement on meaningful proposal to address diversity, equity and inclusion issues.

Support for IATSE and its members, meanwhile, is already beginning to pour in – some of which contains harsh criticism of the AMPTP.

Bradley Whitford tweeted, “I stand with @IATSE. Right now crews aren’t even guaranteed a single meal break or a ten hour turnaround during work weeks that can exceed 70 or even 80 hours. Any other industry would have been shut down long ago.”

Jennifer Beals tweeted, “I am an actor. I stand with IATSE. Do you? #IASolidarity.”

Jaclyn Moore, producer of Dear White People tweeted, “I’m a showrunner with a show that’s about to go into production…and I stand with IATSE. #IASolidarity”

Liz Hsiao Lan Alper, a WGA West board member and co-founder of #PayUpHollywood tweeted, “I served on the MBA negcom committee in 2020 for the WGA. The AMPTP is not rational or reasonable. If you want a meal penalty, they’ll demand your home & first born in exchange. You only ever get gains if you fight tooth and nail. I’d be terrified to fight IATSE. #IASolidarity.”

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