Hollywood Teams Union IATSE Reaches Deal to Avoid Strike


The union representing the Hollywood teams has reached an agreement on a new contract with the major studios, avoiding a historic strike next week that would have disrupted film and television production nationwide.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Employees and the Alliance of Film and Television Producers said they had reached an agreement on a new three-year contract covering some 40,000 workers in the film and television industry represented by 13 Hollywood union branches.

The alliance represents major Hollywood studios such as Walt Disney and Warner Bros. as well as newcomers Apple, Amazon and Netflix.

“It’s a Hollywood ending,” IATSE International President Matthew Loeb said in a statement. “Our members held on. They are tough and united. We’ve taken on some of the richest and most powerful entertainment and tech companies in the world, and now we have a deal with AMPTP that meets the needs of our members.

The deal ends a deadlock that would have led to the first nationwide strike in the union’s 128-year history and the first major crew strike since World War II. The IATSE had planned to call a strike on Monday if no agreement was reached.

The IATSE said the interim contract, which is subject to member approval, improves wages and working conditions for streaming productions, provides for a retroactive pay increase of 3% per year and higher penalties for businesses that do not offer lunch breaks. The agreement also includes unspecified diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and adds Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a public holiday, the union said.

The pact also includes a pledge to fund the union’s health and pension plans, which face a $ 400 million deficit, and responds to long-standing complaints about long hours on sets. It would require producers to allow a minimum turnaround time of 10 hours between daily shoots and 54 hours off after a five-day week.

Variety first reported that a breakthrough in negotiations came after the parties worked late Friday night, with entertainment lawyer Ken Ziffren and Disney chief executive Peter Rice playing an important role in bridging the differences between the parties. parts.

The deal was greeted with a sigh of relief across Hollywood, which was on the lookout for the prospect of a shutdown that would have shaken up planned film and television setings.

A walkout would have had a significant effect on the Southern California film and television industry and other production centers nationwide, including New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Albuquerque. The last major labor dispute in Hollywood – the 2007-08 writers’ strike – lasted 100 days and sparked lasting changes in the industry.

Studios – still recovering from heavy losses suffered by movie theater closings and closures – have been eager to step up productions delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The threat of a walkout surprised some studio executives.

The IATSE, which represents cameramen, preparers, props, decorators and decorators, makeup artists and many other specialized technicians, has historically avoided public confrontations with the studios. The union has traditionally preferred to quietly negotiate early deals with their employers to avoid rocking the boat and keeping their members at work.

But this time around, union leaders admitted they had considerable leverage against the studios.

They knew traditional media companies were loath to endure another crippling production shutdown, potentially losing even more ground to rival Netflix and other streaming services.

Some of those same companies have also launched their own streaming services – WarnerMedia to HBO Max, NBCUniversal to Peacock, and ViacomCBS to Paramount + – and they are in desperate need of original TV shows and movies to attract their own subscribers.

Additionally, those same companies that own broadcast networks – CBS, NBC, ABC, CW and Fox – have attempted to gain a foothold during the current fall TV season.

Networks feared another work stoppage could contribute to further audience declines by halting production of popular shows such as CBS’s “Young Sheldon,” ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live. ! ” and NBC’s “The Voice”.

“The business is finally starting to come out of the hole we found ourselves in,” said a network television official who was not authorized to speak publicly earlier this week. “A strike would not be good for anyone.

Armed with this recognition, IATSE leaders felt emboldened to take a stronger stance to ensure better wages and working conditions on behalf of their members.

The team members were angered by the endless days on set to keep pace with the production now underway to create TV shows and movies that will power the various streaming services.

IATSE members said they were just tired and frustrated with working 16 hours a day and on weekends.

Support for a walkout was strong among union members, who voted almost unanimously earlier this month to give their leaders permission to call a strike if they failed to succeed. to hear with representatives of the studio.

“These gigantic companies have gotten used to pushing things – pushing, pushing,” Joe Holdman, 30, lighting manager and member of IATSE Local 728, told The Times this week. of those things that’s been bubbling beneath the surface for so long, and it’s finally hit a tipping point. ”

The strong demonstration of support gave the union leaders considerable leverage in asserting their demands.

Studio executives recognized that it would be untenable to defend previous points of agreement that had allowed TV producers, directors and showrunners to put crews to work, in some cases, more than 15 hours a day.

USC history professor Steven J. Ross said the issues raised by IATSE – better pay, safer working conditions, shorter work weeks – “are the same issues that unions have been fighting since the creation of the AFL, the American Federation of Labor. 1880s.

Labor disharmony has increased in the United States at a time when employers struggle to fill vacancies.

In August, a record 4.3 million people left their jobs, according to the federal government.

The breakthrough in the IATSE talks came two days after 10,000 workers at John Deere & Co. went on strike after rejecting a proposed contract between the company and leaders of their United Automobile Workers union. Last month, Nabisco employees staged a weeklong walkout protesting proposed changes to their shift lengths and overtime rules.

On Monday, thousands of Kaiser Permanente workers in Southern California voted to allow a strike against the healthcare giant, protesting what they describe as severe staff shortages that are putting both medical staff and patients at risk.

“You are seeing changes in work patterns across America,” said Nithya Raman, a member of the Los Angeles City Council whose district includes parts of Hollywood. “This marks real change and I’m really happy that Hollywood is seeing a local echo of this same national shift in the power of working people.”

A contract between AMPTP and IATSE for film and television workers expired on July 31 and was extended until September 10 to allow more time to negotiate and negotiate new COVID-19 safety protocols .

The IATSE and AMPTP, whose members have become increasingly diverse over the years, have clashed over a range of issues.

The union was seeking wage improvements and compensation for streaming productions which it said are being unfairly reduced. Another big sticking point was complaints about long hours and lack of breaks for crews, as producers lobbied to make up for production delays caused by the pandemic.

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