Tentative agreement averts IATSE strike

A tentative agreement between the theatrical workers union and the film industry averted a major strike slated to begin this week. Illustration by Gabriel Toscano.

A tentative agreement announced on Oct. 16 averted a nationwide strike by members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) that was slated to begin Monday. 

This strike could see the film industry come to a grinding halt if carried out. With a workforce of about 60,000 people, and support of the union high, empty production sets and filming delays all across the country is entirely possible.

After months of negotiations, this agreement covers the basic demands of what IATSE was demanding from the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP). These demands included accommodations that the IATSE argued were basal to other industries. Such as; increased wages with a 3% increase annually, increased meal period penalties, daily rest periods of 10 hours without exclusions, and weekend periods of up to 54 hours.

If this agreement is passed, it will go into effect over the next three years 90 days after ratification.

“We went toe to toe with some of the richest and most powerful entertainment and tech companies in the world,” said IATSE international president Matthew Loeb in a statement on their website, “and we have now reached an agreement with the AMPTP that meets our members’ needs,” 

Negotiations began after a three-year contract expired between the IATSE and the AMPTP, resulting in a fierce negotiation process to determine the working conditions of many stage employees.

After the AMPTP had stopped replying to the IATSE’s proposals, the green light was given to organize a strike. IATSE members voted 98% in favor of the strike, with an 82% turnout among members on Oct. 4.

Much controversy has surrounded the working conditions that many set workers have endured in recent years. Workers often saw 12 hour workdays nearly seven days a week, with insufficient compensation. Many of these grievances led to the demands that IATSE issued to AMPTP.

“As it is, I’ve been on sets for up to twelve hours a day with less than ten hours of turnaround time before the next day,” said Sam Holladay, an alumnus of UVU’s Digital Cinema program. “It’s barely enough time to go home and go to bed before doing it all over again. It’s physical labor too: you’re on your feet lifting and moving things all day.”

Although the strike has been averted by this agreement, IATSE is prepared to strike if it falls through. Many members are still deciding whether they will vote for the agreement or not. Theodore Ryzs of the IATSE Local 728 told Variety, “I feel like our leadership let us down again.”

The same article shows that many members believe that the agreement doesn’t go far enough.

“Personally I hope IATSE members vote down the new deal and hold out for something better,” said Holladay. “As a recent graduate, I want to know that I can make a living doing what I love and still have time to raise a family.”

IATSE has advised members to listen to their local chapters as details come out about the agreement. In the last few hours, they have released several summaries on their Twitter containing details about the agreement. One summary stated, “We intend to provide as much information [as] possible, and as soon as possible.”

“The potential IATSE strike is important for anyone that enjoys films and television because your favorite movies and shows wouldn’t exist without the technicians, artists, and other crew members making them,” said Holladay, stressing the relevance of the strike. “Those crew members deserve to be paid fairly and have healthy personal lives outside of work.”

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