Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees representing behind-the-scenes production workers narrowly ratified new contracts with film and TV producers, the union announced Monday.
Just 50.3% of the popular vote was cast in favor of the two agreements — the Basic Agreement and the Area Standards Agreement — with the Basic Agreement actually being voted down by members. However, delegate votes ratified both agreements, with a combination of 56% of total delegate votes from the 36 local unions cast in favor, according to IATSE.
The vote ratifies a tentative deal that was struck last month between IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers just as the union was prepared to go on strike.
“From start to finish, from preparation to ratification, this has been a democratic process to win the very best contracts,” IATSE International President Matthew Loeb said. “The vigorous debate, high turnout and close election indicates we have an unprecedented movement-building opportunity to educate members on our collective bargaining process and drive more participation in our union long-term.”
Some 60,000 film and TV workers began casting their ballots online on Friday, and the voting deadline was 8:59 p.m. Sunday.
Turnout was high, with 72% of members casting ballots, according to the union.
IATSE uses an electoral-college-style system through which locals are assigned delegates based on membership totals. Members vote within their local union and once a local reaches a majority vote to either ratify or reject, all delegate votes are assigned to the majority result.
The ratification vote was conducted among the union’s 13 locals on the West Coast, for the basic agreement, and with 23 locals elsewhere on the area standards agreement.
The union represents “below the line” workers such as production and department coordinators, writers’ assistants, cinematographers, costumers, grips, script supervisors, technicians, designers and others.
The weekend-long vote came on the heels of a letter to the rank-and-file from Loeb last week, in which he urged passage of the new contract — but also amid rumblings that some members were unhappy with the proposed pact.
Bargaining teams for all 36 local unions had also endorsed passage.
When the main contract agreement was announced last month, the union said it includes 3% annual wage hikes, improvements in pay and conditions on streaming productions, observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and a rest period of 10 hours between daily shoots and 54 hours on weekends.
While 98.6% of members voted in mid-October to authorize Loeb to call a strike if progress on a new pact stalled, there were indications in recent days that the deal ultimately struck was not being received with similar unanimity in the ranks.
On Thursday, about two dozen IATSE workers and supporters gathered outside the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood to express their opposition to the proposed contract. Some said it does not sufficiently improve working conditions, particularly in regard to long hours and on-set safety.
Some cited the recent accidental shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie “Rust” as an example of the dangers crew members can face.
“Incremental change has brought us to where we are today, and it’s just not enough,” Desmond O’Regan — a propmaker and one of the organizers of Thursday’s rally — told the Los Angeles Times. “We have folks dying on set from obvious safety issues like what happened most recently with Halyna. … We have a lot of safety issues that are exacerbated by long hours.”
Both three-year contracts contain provisions guaranteeing adequate rest at the end of the workday and on the weekend along with workday meal breaks and stiff financial penalties for violations.
When the deal was announced, Loeb said it should be a model for “gig workers” in other industries.
“This agreement, and the contract campaign before it, should serve as a model for other workers in the entertainment and tech industries, for workers employed by gaming companies and for so-called `gig workers.’ … We’re the original gig workers,” Loeb said.
Monday, he said the union’s objectives had been met.
“Our goal was to achieve fair contracts that work for IATSE members in television and film — that address quality-of-life issues and conditions on the job like rest and meal breaks,” Loeb said. “We met our objectives for this round of bargaining and built a strong foundation for future agreements.”