Members of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike that could shut down many Hollywood film and television productions, the union announced Monday.
“IATSE Members in TV and film production voted to authorize the first nationwide industry strike in our 128-year history,” the union announced Monday on Twitter.
According to the union, 98.68% of members who cast ballots voted yes, and voter turnout among eligible members at nearly 90%.
The vote gives the union’s international president, Matthew Loeb, authority to call a walkoff as the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers continue to wrangle over a range of issues relating primarily to work conditions but also to revenue growing out of streaming and other “new media.”
The authorization does not automatically mean a strike will occur — only that Loeb now has the authority to call a walkout if talks fail to move toward a resolution.
The union represents some 52,000 “below the line workers” such as production and department coordinators, writers’ assistants, cinematographers, costumers, grips, script supervisors, technicians, designers and others.
Voting began Friday, and the large margin of approval had been expected.
In response to the vote, the AMPTP on Monday quickly released a statement, saying it “remains committed to reaching an agreement that will keep the industry working. We deeply value our IATSE crew members and are committed to working with them to avoid shutting down the industry at such a pivotal time, particularly since the industry is still recovering from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The producers statement went on to say, “A deal can be made at the bargaining table, but it will require both parties working together in good faith with a willingness to compromise and to explore new solutions to resolve the open issues.”
Union leadership in recent days had “strongly encouraged” its rank-and-file to vote “yes” on the strike authorization.
The contract talks involve 13 Hollywood local unions.
“We are fighting to ensure that the most powerful media corporations on the planet treat the film and TV workers who produce their content with basic human dignity,” according to the union.
Talks have been stalled for some time.
On Sept. 21, the union announced that, “After months of negotiating successor contracts to the Producer-IATSE Basic Agreement, and the Theatrical and Television Motion Picture Area Standards Agreement, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) announced … it does not intend to make any counteroffer to the IATSE’s most recent proposal.”
“Throughout the bargaining process, the AMPTP has failed to work with us on addressing the most grievous problems in their workplaces.”
However, the AMPTP issued a statement Sept. 23 that said talks had broken down and negotiations were suspended Sept. 3, “just days after they began.”
“At that time, both parties agreed they would continue negotiations on the Area Standards Agreement some time after the Hollywood IATSE Basic Agreement bargaining resumed on Sept. 9. The AMPTP made moves just before the parties agreed to recess. The IATSE has yet to respond,” the statement said.
The producers group added: “It is unfortunate the IATSE has gone down the path of publishing false information about the negotiations. This approach unnecessarily polarizes the bargaining parties and elevates tensions at a time when we should be focused on finding ways to avoid a strike.”
The AMPTP said a strike “will have a devastating impact on the industry and inevitably will result in thousands of IATSE members losing their income, failing to qualify for health insurance benefits, jeopardizing funding for the pension plan and disrupting production.”
“The producers are committed to reaching an agreement at the bargaining table that balances the needs of both parties and will keep the industry working,” the producers’ statement also said.
Among the key issues, according to the union’s website, are:
- “Excessively unsafe and harmful working hours”;
- “Unlivable wages for the lowest-paid crafts”;
- “Consistent failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks, between workdays and on weekends”; and
- “Workers on certain `new media’ streaming projects get paid less, even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters.”
Last week, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and Sen. Alex Padilla, D- California, joined with 118 U.S. senators and House members in sending a letter to the AMPTP, urging the association to negotiate collaboratively and in good faith.
The letter followed an action by the Los Angeles City Council earlier in the week, in which four council members introduced a motion urging the AMPTP and the union representing skilled crew and craftspeople to bargain in good faith and come to an agreement. A vote by council members was not immediately scheduled.