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IATSE Members Vote to Ratify the Basic Agreement, but Only by a Small Margin

November 15, 2021 12:02 | By

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On Monday, November 15, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced the results of the weekend vote to ratify the Basic Agreement and Area Standards Agreement contracts negotiated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which will affect over 60,000 members of the labor union.

As far as the 13 West Coast locals that were voting on the Basic Agreement that covers film and television shoots in L.A., eight of the locals voted to ratify with 255 of the 444 delegates voting to approve. Going by the popular vote, only 49.6% of the voting members approved the contract, so it clearly squeaked by and was passed with the narrowest of possible margins. This new Hollywood Basic Agreement will now be the new three-year contract through the summer of 2024.

The Area Standards Agreement received a large percentage of positive votes with 52% of the voting members in favor to ratify, making up 14 of the 23 locals outside Hollywood, so that contract is also now in effect until 2024.

The current contract between the IATSE and AMPTP went through a rough series of negotiations beginning in June and then breaking down in September, before a majority of the membership voted for a strike authorization.That strike authorization forced the two partiesback to the negotiating table where IATSE President Matthew D. Loeb and the other union leaders were able to negotiate a preliminary contract on October 17, less than 24 hours before the entire IATSE membership covered by these contracts was prepared to go out on strike.

On the vote to ratify, Loeb said, “From start to finish, from preparation to ratification, this has been a democratic process  to win the very best contracts. 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.” 

Later on Monday, the AMPTP responded with their own statement, “We congratulate IATSE President, Matt Loeb, the IATSE Bargaining Committee and Board for their leadership in achieving ratification of the new contracts. Throughout the negotiations, IATSE leadership advocated changes to improved quality of life for those they represent. These agreements meaningfully reflect the industry’s endorsement of those priorities and keep everyone working.”

Some of the gains reached from the new contract include an increase in the minimum wage for Local 871, the lower-paying positions in the union that include Writers’ Assistants, Script Coordinators, Art Department Coordinators, and Assistant Production Office Coordinators. They will get $23.50 per hour this year, retroactive back to August 1, and then next year that will go up to $24.50. (Note: Some of the numbers and roles in this paragraph were in error and have now been fixed.)

The contract also dealt with the loopholes that were created around turnarounds aka rest periods that now requires at least 10 hours of rest for all productions, and therefore, a maximum of 14-hour workdays, including television series, which have been known to require longer shooting days. There will also be an increase in penalties for delayed meal breaks.

Many IATSE members felt that the new contract did not go far enough in terms of having longer turnarounds for film and television productions. The contract also did not include more safety precautions for crew to avoid things like the preventable death of Rust Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, which occurred on Oct. 22, just as verbiage and legalese was being finessed between the two parties.

UPDATE: The International Cinematographers Guild Local 600 was one of the five locals to reject the new contract with 48% for and 52% against “a difference of 270 votes out of 6,398 cast,” according to a memo sent to its members. 80% of the nearly 9,000 members of Local 600 voted over the weekend. That was counter-balanced by the Editors Guild Local 700 voting for ratification. The latter is IATSE’s second-largest local with 6,000 members. Reportedly, the Motion Picture Costumers Local 706 also voted against the new contract, while the Art Directors Guild approved it.

You can read the full press release and more details from IATSE about the vote to ratify below:

“IATSE Members Ratify Contracts with Producers, Studios and Streaming Services 

Contracts between IATSE and AMPTP address quality-of-life issues such as rest and meal breaks; boost revenues from streaming; include raises for all members and lift those at the bottom to a living wage. 

LOS ANGELES – Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE) have voted to ratify two contracts, the Basic Agreement, and the Area Standards Agreement, with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the trade group representing producers, major studios and streaming services.  

From start to finish, from preparation to ratification, this has been a democratic process  to win the very best contracts,” said IATSE International President Matthew Loeb. “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.” 

IATSE uses an electoral college style system through which locals are assigned delegates  based on their size of memberships. 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. 

In the end, the combined vote was 359 (56%) to 282 (44%), out of 641 total delegate  votes from the 36 local unions eligible. For the Basic Agreement the vote was 256 voting  yes to 188 no and for the Area Standards Agreement the yes vote was 103 to 94 no votes.  

The popular vote was much closer. A combined 50.3% voted yes and 49.7% voted no for  both contracts. For the Basic Agreement the popular vote came in at 49.6% yes to 50.4%  no. On the Area Standards Agreement the popular vote stands at 52% yes to 48% no. For  the Basic Agreement eight locals voted yes and five locals voted no. Among the Area  

Standards local unions, 14 locals voted yes and nine voted no. 

Turnout was high. Seventy-two percent of the 63,209 members eligible to vote cast ballots. Bargaining teams for all 36 local unions involved had endorsed passage and both agreements passed. 

“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,” said Loeb. “We met our objectives for this round of bargaining and built a  strong foundation for future agreements.”  

Both three-year contracts contain provisions that guarantee adequate rest at the end of the  workday and on the weekend for those employed on film and television productions  along with meal breaks during the workday and stiff financial penalties if the break  periods are violated.  

In addition to across-the-board wage increases, the new agreements dramatically lift  those at the bottom of the pay scale from poverty to a living wage. New provisions also  will significantly improve wages and working conditions for IATSE members employed  on streaming productions. 

The international union worked closely with its locals to establish a set of objectives for  negotiations. Discussions in local unions early in the year helped the bargaining teams set  clear goals including new measures related to diversity and inclusion. 

The dynamics of these contract negotiations were unprecedented, taking place during a  global pandemic, via a remote-meeting platform, after an industry shutdown, and at a  time when production for television and film was surging. Also, for the first time, the  Basic Agreement, covering more than 40,000 members in 13 West Coast local unions, and the Area Standards Agreement, covering more than 20,000 members in 23 IATSE  local unions elsewhere in the country, expired at the same time. 

Negotiations for both the Basic Agreement and Area Standards Agreement began in May  but broke off in September. Going into the fall, negotiators for both the union and  AMPTP were far apart. The producers refused to even discuss some of the union’s  demands. The union responded by holding a strike authorization vote at the beginning of  October. Ninety percent of eligible voters cast ballots and 98.6 percent of those voting  authorized the IATSE international president to call a nationwide strike if he deemed it  necessary. Following the strike vote, AMPTP returned to the bargaining table. Later, a  strike date was set by the union, spurring the producers to meet the union’s demands for  the Basic Agreement. A tentative agreement was reached October 16, two days prior to  the announced strike date. The bargaining teams of all 13 West Coast local unions  unanimously recommended ratification.  

A combined 63,209 IATSE members were eligible to vote on the two agreements, 45,402  members cast ballots. Voting on both agreements was conducted electronically over the  past weekend, administered by the election services firm Honest Ballot.”

As this is breaking news, we’ll update this news as the need arises.

Look out for the next Strike Alert column from Mark London Williams tomorrow (Tuesday) for his thoughts on the results of the ratification vote.