On Thursday, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) released a 49-page Memorandum of Agreement, covering the Basic Agreement (BA) for the 13 West Coast local unions, and another for the Theatrical and Television Motion Picture Area Standards Agreement (ASA). These agreements — you can read the Basic Agreement here — were negotiated by IATSE with the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) for a new three-year contract to cover roughly 60,000 television and film workers. Voting on whether to ratify these agreements will begin on November 12 and the results of the vote will be announced on November 15.
The Basic Agreement covers the 13 local West Coast unions, while the 23 local unions outside that area are covered by the Area Standards Agreement. The two contracts will only be finalized once members vote to ratify, but IATSE President Matthew Loeb has been particularly bullish, referring to it as, “the best agreement possible.” Last week, he and other union leaders urged members to ratify in a statement saying, “The entire bargaining committee, consisting of over 50 representatives from all of the 13 Hollywood locals, committed to recommending ratification, because we were, and we remain, proud of what we had achieved.”
Others in the union have expressed concerns and even dissatisfaction both online and at town halls held by the individual locals, based upon earlier releases of what would be in the new three-year contracts. In September, nearly 90% voted for a strike authorization when talks between IATSE and AMPTP seemed to have stalled. More virtual town halls and weekends are planned this weekend to help members understand what the final agreement entails and offers in order to help avoid the deal being stalled if the ratification vote fails.
It has been more than two weeks since IATSE achieved a Basic Agreement deal before the planned Oct. 18 deadline that would have led to a union-wide strike. In the time since, they have negotiated the ASA, and wording and legalese has been hashed out between the two parties.
The ASA agreement was released with a statement signed by Loeb and the leaders of the respective locals:
In the 128-year history of the IATSE, our members have never shown more resolve towards accomplishing change in our workplace. You reminded the world that there is strength in unity, and your unity was reflected in the resounding strike authorization vote, which was the key to our success.
When we reached a tentative agreement on Sunday night, October 24th, the entire bargaining committee (consisting of over 40 representatives from all 23 Area Standards Agreement locals) committed to recommending ratification, because we were, and we remain, proud of what we had achieved.
We believe that we built upon the success in the Basic Agreement negotiations to further achieve unprecedented
economic gains and working condition improvements for our members working under the Area Standards Agreement.
So we stand united in recommending a Yes vote on this agreement. To those of you uncertain if we pushed far enough in these negotiations, we hear you. We recognize that there are more issues that need to be addressed. Ratification of this agreement will allow us to do just that – move forward in unity to continue seeking significant gains in the future.
Our ability to continue with that success depends on our ability to stay united rather than divided. A divided
membership only emboldens the employers to keep challenging our priorities. Let’s move forward together and
continue to compound our gains as we advocate for long overdue cultural change in the industry.
We appreciate your desire to be well-educated prior to the ratification vote, and we are including a memorandum of the agreement for your review. We encourage you to reach out to your local leadership for a better understanding of the terms of the agreement and the gains that have been achieved.
You will also be receiving more details and instructions on how to vote to ratify this agreement. Your vote is important.
Please make sure you cast your ballot. Let’s move forward together with a Yes vote.
The introduction to the released agreement says, “This Memorandum of Agreement reflects the complete understanding reached between the parties. As soon as practicable, this Memorandum of Agreement will be reduced to formal contract language. This Memorandum of Agreement is not contract language, except where the context clearly indicates otherwise.”
Some of the key points highlighted on the official agreement websites, focus on working conditions, economic improvements, streaming improvements, and protected health care benefits and sick leave, which have improved since the previous contract, which expired in September. Specifically, the new agreement includes “improved wages and working conditions for streaming,” and 10-hour turnaround times between shifts. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is now considered a holiday, and there has been increased funding for members’ health and pension plans, and a 3% rate increase every year for the duration of the proposed contract, as well as “diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.”
As far as the troubled financial state of the union’s Health and Pension plans, it was said there will be a large injection of money, as per an earlier document saying, “For the term of the agreement, ongoing hourly contribution increases resulting in $370 million in new money over the 3 years of the contract. This will keep our Plans funded, with no reduction of benefits or increases to qualifications or premiums.”
On page 5 of the agreement, it states that more work needs to be done still. “A committee consisting of an equal number of representatives of the Producers and the IATSE, in conjunction with the Health Plan’s consultants and the Pension Plan’s actuaries, shall conduct a joint study to examine the long-term status of the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans and possible alternative Plan structures going forward. The committee shall meet as soon as practicable upon ratification of the Agreement with results of the study due to the bargaining parties by July 1, 2022. It is understood that other Union parties to the Plans may join the committee, if agreed by Producers.”
Leadership also wants to make members aware that under the labor laws, rejecting the deal or voting “no” to ratify means that the two parties will have to return to the negotiating table, which could put things back to where they were in September once the contracts lapsed.
This continues to be breaking news, and Below the Line will continue to report on the story as new developments arise.