IATSE strike authorization vote: Hollywood won’t close yet

Here is what you need to know about this weekend’s vote, the sequel and the productions that would be impacted by a possible strike.

AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) and the 13 local unions of West Coast IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) are currently operating under the Hollywood Basic Agreement, which expired this week after that the negotiations reached an impasse 11 days ago. The IATSE members of these 13 locals – approximately 40,000 to 45,000 members who represent a large percentage of the team that works in film and television production in Los Angeles – are in the second day of a period of three-day vote in which they will decide whether they want to allow the leaders to go on strike. The strike authorization vote ends Sunday, October 3, and the results are expected on Monday.

Here is what you need to know to put this strike authorization into context, understand what happens next and which productions would be affected by a strike.

Authorization is inevitable, but it’s participation that counts

According to a half-dozen sources within the IATSE locals leadership who spoke in the background, the strike authorization is expected to win a large percentage. What matters even more than the percentage of members who vote “yes” is the percentage of all members who choose to vote. This commitment will be essential to strengthen the position of IATSE President Matthew Loeb when he returns to the negotiating table with a strike authorization in his pocket.

Strikes by IATSE residents have been rare in Hollywood history; a widespread IATSE strike is unprecedented. Much of this is due to the lack of engagement of IATSE members, which is fractured by a myriad of locals. Divided by profession, and often by region, it is difficult to create solidarity between its 150,000 members.

This time may be different. During the last round of negotiations in 2018, IATSE members were increasingly frustrated by issues of pay, benefits and continuous working hours. This summer, Brooklyn-based lighting technician Ben Gottlieb stoked that fire with the creation of the IATSE Stories Instagram account. The ability of social media to share workers’ stories has been essential in creating solidarity.

This weekend, local Los Angeles leaders will host several outreach events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday to build on the momentum and secure the vote.

At an IATSE auto painting event last week.

Chris Lindahl

Don’t expect an immediate strike

The work stoppage is rarely the preferred outcome of collective bargaining, but it is important to note the lack of appetite for a strike on either side. After the first 16 months of the pandemic resulted in shutdown and sharply reduced production, Hollywood has content-hungry streaming platforms to fuel and the crew has bills to pay.

During the past two months, production has reached pre-pandemic levels; at the same time, crew contract negotiations have stalled with deadlines extended from summer to fall. The reason was legitimate: IATSE (along with DGA and SAG) focused its AMPTP negotiations on rewriting COVID security protocols to reflect the current reality of vaccines and a better understanding of how to prevent the spread of the virus. These historical protocols have helped more productions to restart; what has not resumed, according to the IATSE, is the willingness of AMPTP to negotiate a new contract.

In public and in private, the stated objective of the strike authorization serves as a wake-up call to AMPTP and to restart negotiations. “They talked about power, not reason, so my reading is that if they see the strike authorization passed, then maybe they will come to their senses and to the negotiating table,” he said. Loeb said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times published Thursday. “But if it’s about power, it’s a problem.”

Matt Loeb attends the 54th Annual International Cinematographers Guild Publicists Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 24, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California.,  |  usage worldwide Photo by: Dave Starbuck / Geisler-Fotopress / picture-alliance / dpa / AP Images

IATSE President Matthew Loeb

Dave Starbuck / Geisler-Fotopress / picture-alliance / dpa / AP Images

IATSE insiders tell IndieWire that a minimum of three weeks of negotiations, or attempted negotiations, will follow the strike authorization vote. That said: if AMPTP continues to exercise its power in the form of not budging on streaming pay and working hours, a strike is inevitable.

What would a strike look like?

Hollywood cannot make movies or TV shows without the 150,000 IATSE crews who handle virtually every aspect of production. However, it is not clear that an impending strike would end all production. The two expired agreements that are said to be on strike include:

Hollywood Basic Agreement: This applies to 13 West Coast locals with approximately 40,000 to 45,000 members working in Los Angeles. While this represents a large number of films and TV series scripted by the studio, an important aspect of the Basic Agreement is the Supplemental Videotape Agreement, which applies to talk shows, on TV. reality, game shows and variety shows like “Entertainment Tonight,” “Dancing with the Stars” and “Judge Judy.” It covers all Los Angeles County productions and people working on productions across North America who are hired by an LA County producer.

Zone standards agreement: This applies to 10,000 to 15,000 IATSE members employed on productions in large production states such as Georgia, New Mexico and Louisiana.

Add the two groups together and you have about 60,000 striking members and much of the Hollywood business on hold, but that’s not all and everyone. Excluded are, for example, productions under the low budget cinema agreement still in effect for films under $ 15 million; the Premium Cable Agreement, for original shows produced by the cable channels HBO, Showtime and Starz; side agreements that cover advertisements; and parts of the country with their own regional agreements, notably New York.

In an online presentation to its members at the end of September, IATSE representatives stressed that members working on commercials or for HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, BET or another company with a contract still in effect, should continue. to work. This message was highlighted in an email sent to members.

However, sources told IndieWire that a Deadline title highlighting this fact (“IATSE Strike Wouldn’t Have Hit HBO, Showtime, BET & Starz Shows: ‘You Won’t Be A Scab’, Union Tells Members”) caused huge headaches for the IATSE leadership. . Was it true? Yes, but it had nothing to do with the ongoing contractual issues. Worse, the emphasis risked confusing and underscoring the fractured nature of IATSE. Analyzing why a member would strike against an HBO Max streaming-only show as “Hacks,” but not the original HBO series “Succession,” played out in the hands of AMPTP.

International leaders of IATSE have called on local leaders and company representatives to stop going into details of still-active agreements, while its lawyers dig into members’ actual legal obligations. Sources told IndieWire that it was unlikely that national locals could legally call on members to strike at all levels. However, if members chose not to cross the picket lines, IATSE leaders would defend their right to do so.

With the accolade, New York-based production managers and producers who spoke to IndieWire said they were particularly interested in how members of the local 600 (camera), 700 (editors) and 800 (art directors) ) perceive a potential strike. These are by far the three largest and most powerful of the 13 IATSE locals under the Hollywood Basic Agreement, but just as important: they are the only three national Locals. If there is a strike, what would the members of those locals think about working on a studio filming project in New York City, while members of their locals strike in Los Angeles and Atlanta?

While big-name actors like Seth Rogen speaking in favor of IATSE will make the headlines, what could really shake things up are the voices of an Oscar-winning cinematographer like Roger Deakins (Local 600) or decorator Hannah Beachler (Local 800). What do they have to say about continuing to work where there are still active agreements? If the 600, 700, or 800 members see a strike as widespread and not limited to expired Hollywood Basic and ASA agreements, then virtually all film and television production actually stops.

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