In a move that’s likely going to escalate tension throughout the film and TV industries, an overwhelming majority of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees members voted in favour of approving a nationwide strike that could bring all productions to a grinding halt.
Variety reports that, of the labour union’s over 150,000 worker membership, 90% participated in the vote, and 98% of IATSE members voted to give president Matthew D. Loeb the power to move forward with a strike.
“The members have spoken loud and clear,” Loeb said in a statement. “This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry. Our people have basic human needs like time for meal breaks, adequate sleep, and a weekend. For those at the bottom of the pay scale, they deserve nothing less than a living wage.”
IATSE’s vote does not mean that a strike is happening immediately, but rather that the organisation is very down for a strike. It comes after a long period of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. IATSE and the AMPTP began trying to hash out a new labour contract back in May, and by the time a July 31 deadline came and went (along with multiple extensions), it was clear that a new agreement was not close to being settled on.
IATSE, which is composed of 366 local unions across the U.S. and Canada, has been campaigning for an increase in workers’ minimum wages in addition to giving workers more downtime between the end of one production day and the beginning of another. Much of what IATSE is pushing for is in direct response to ways in which productions have changed as a result of studios making different kinds of financial decisions. This current age of abundance when it comes to prestige streaming and cable series and movies is the product of more studios pushing projects onto their respective streaming platforms. While streaming platforms may present the space for more projects to live, those projects being classified as “New Media” in IATSE’s old contract meant that people working on them took significant pay cuts in an already-crowded space.
Should the Loeb decide to proceed with a strike, 60,000 of IATSE’s members would be able to begin striking immediately, but Loeb insisted that the organisation would still rather work things out rather than shut things down during a pandemic.
“I hope that the studios will see and understand the resolve of our members,” Loeb said. “The ball is in their court. If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer.“