A sigh of relief can be heard in Hollywood tonight as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) reached a tentative three-year agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for The Basic and Videotape Agreements which affects 40,000 film and television workers represented by 13 West Coast IATSE local unions. While this agreement needs to be ratified by the membership through a vote, it means that Monday’s strike was averted nearly at the last minute. Negotiations will continue for the film and television workers who fall under the Area Standards Agreement.
IATSE released a press release with a statement from International President Matthew Loeb that goes through the terms of the agreement, which he refers to as “a Hollywood ending”:
“A nationwide strike that would have started Monday was averted today when the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) reached a tentative three-year agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for The Basic and Videotape Agreements which affects 40,000 film and television workers represented by 13 West Coast IATSE local unions. The proposed contract addresses core issues, including reasonable rest periods; meal breaks; a living wage for those on the bottom of the pay scale; and significant increases in compensation to be paid by new-media companies.
“This is a Hollywood ending,” said IATSE International President Matthew Loeb. “Our members stood firm. They’re tough and united.”
IATSE union members, whom Loeb described as “the workhorses of the television and film industry,” were prepared to withhold their labor and go on strike until issues related to the quality of their lives were addressed, he said.
“We went toe to toe with some of the richest and most powerful entertainment and tech companies in the world, and we have now reached an agreement with the AMPTP that meets our members’ needs.”
The AMPTP is a trade association that represents major employers and producers of television and film including Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Apple, Netflix, and Amazon, among others.
The tentative agreement, which still must be ratified by IATSE members, includes:
- Achievement of a living wage for the lowest-paid earners • Improved wages and working conditions for streaming
- Retroactive wage Increases of 3 percent annually
- Increased meal period penalties
- Daily rest periods of 10 hours without exclusions
- Weekend rest periods of 54 hours
- Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday Holiday added to schedule • Adoption of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives
Many film and television workers had lamented how the workweek commonly ran into the weekend as Fridays and Saturdays became one long workday or a “Fraturday.” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, in remarks to the National Press Club in Washington earlier this week, said that IATSE members were “fighting for the weekend.” Under the terms of the new agreement film and television workers would now have a minimum of rest over the weekend.
IATSE members will be briefed by their local leaders on full details and language of the tentative agreement early this week. A ratification vote will be held with members casting ballots online using a similar process that was used to conduct the recent strike authorization vote.
“Our members will see significant improvements, but our employers also will benefit,” said Mike Miller, Vice President and Motion Picture Director for IATSE. “This settlement allows pre production, production and post-production to continue without interruption. Workers should have improved morale and be more alert. Health and safety standards have been upgraded.”
This agreement, and the contract campaign before it, should serve as a model for other workers in the entertainment and tech industries, for workers employed by gaming companies, and for so called “gig workers,” explained Loeb. “We’re the original gig workers.”
“Like non-union, freelance workers, many of our highly-skilled members go to work at different times, for different employers, at different locations,” Loeb said. “The difference is, our people have healthcare and retirement benefits, can negotiate for better wages and conditions, and have a voice and power because they work together through their union.”
“Solidarity is more than a word,” Loeb added. “It’s the way to get things done.”
Two weeks ago, IATSE members who work in television and film production at 36 IATSE local unions across the country voted to authorize the union’s international president to call the first nationwide strike in the union’s 128-year history if contract talks didn’t result in new agreements for 60,000 film and television workers that fall under the Basic Agreement and the Area Standards Agreement. Voter turnout was 90 percent, with 98.6 percent of those voting in support of authorizing a strike. Last Wednesday, Loeb announced that a strike would begin at 12:01 Monday morning, Oct. 18 if a deal had not been reached.
Prior to the strike vote, negotiators for the AMPTP had not spoken to the union’s bargaining team for two weeks. After the overwhelming showing of support from members, negotiations resumed, but lacked a sense of urgency. The pace of talks quickened after the announcement of the strike date was set for Oct. 18. Substantial progress was made on Friday and final details for the Basic Agreement were reached late Saturday.
Negotiations continue for those who work under the similar Area Standards Agreement and belong to IATSE local unions in major production hubs such as New Mexico, New York, Illinois, Georgia and Louisiana.
Along with near unanimous support from its own members, IATSE received widespread support for its campaign for a new contract from actors, directors and others in the entertainment community. In addition, 120 members of Congress added their names to a letter, and state government leaders in California, New York and other production centers weighed in. The union also received backing from the AFL-CIO and the broader labor movement.
IATSE’s below-the-line workers include camera operators, grips, prop makers, set dressers, makeup artists, editors, script coordinators, publicists and many other job categories key to producing and film and television.”
Atlanta’s IATSE Local 479 for the Motion Picture Studio Mechanics also released a statement to its members informing them of the strike for Monday being off:
“We have just heard from President Loeb that the negotiations for the 2021 Hollywood Basic and Videotape Agreements came to a successful conclusion, with the employers finally relenting on our core issues. We are extremely pleased to share that a tentative agreement has been reached and a strike averted.
What does this mean for the ASA? When the strike authorization was granted, President Loeb returned to the bargaining table with the edict that the terms and conditions under discussion would apply to both the Basic and the ASA. President Loeb would not accept any agreement that didn’t apply to both contracts. While there is still some negotiating left to do on items specific to the ASA, it is understood that the gains made during these Basic Agreement negotiations also apply to the Area Standards Agreement. These gains include:
Living wage achieved
Improved wages and working conditions for streaming
Retroactive scale wage increases of 3% annually
Daily Rest Periods of 10 hours without exclusions
Weekend Rest Periods of 54 and 32 hours
Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday Holiday
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives
Expansion of Sick Leave Benefit to the entire country
Negotiations for the ASA are slated to begin next week.
What happened here is completely unprecedented. With your support and solidarity behind them, our negotiators went to the table with clear demands, and did not relent or compromise on any of these core issues. The employers were forced to come all the way to us. The sum total of gains made in this agreement amount to more than in any other negotiation cycle in history.”
There will be a virtual General Membership Meeting for the group at 2pm on Sunday.
UPDATE: Art Directors Guild, Local 800 (ADG) President Nelson Coates also sent out a statement to his union members, saying,
“It is with great satisfaction that we are writing to inform you that an agreement has been reached between the IATSE and the AMPTP for a successor to the Basic Agreement and the Videotape Agreement and a strike has been averted.
This has been a long-fought effort in which the parties first met in May when we put forth significant proposals meant to address working conditions and quality of life issues. When talks broke down in September you did something IATSE members have never done before, and your actions shocked the world. There is no way to over-emphasize the importance of the power generated when nearly every single one of you cast a ballot and the IATSE membership delivered 98.6% of the votes in favor of a strike authorization. By arming our chief negotiator, International President Loeb, with the ultimate weapon workers have, the ability to withhold their services, you sent a message that shifted the dynamic of these negotiations. In your collective preparations for a strike over the past few days, you amplified that message, putting employers into a state of uncertainty as they rapidly were forced to face the reality that a strike indeed would happen if an agreement was not reached.
Throughout this process, you stood together, both within the Guild and all over the IATSE. The #IAsolidarity campaign drew public attention to our issues. We saw support from near and far, from actors and politicians to farm workers in the fields. The world heard you and most importantly, the employers heard you.
In reaching the agreement that will be presented for ratification, with unanimous support of the 13 Hollywood Locals, the employers moved on issues some thought would never be addressed. Several senior members of the bargaining committee have been fighting for improved turnaround and weekend rest for nearly three decades. It was not achievable until now and the improvements in those areas will provide some welcome relief to crew members across the country. In New Media, the agreement will lead to a dramatic rate increase for almost all SVOD productions as it shifts away from MOW rates in the coming year. When it is time to eat, it will be much more difficult for meals to be skipped as the penalties for late meals were increased dramatically. Our benefits have been protected with nearly $400 Million dollars in new funding. And our lowest paid coworkers will finally receive a living wage.
In short, our priorities have been addressed. We even made gains in areas that received little attention in the strike conversations. Our agreement will finally acknowledge the legacy of Dr Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the inclusion of the federal holiday among our contractual ones. New provisions related to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will go a long way to honor his work, creating a workforce that is reflective of the world around it. For our on-call members an increase from 60 to 70 benefit hours per week by the third year will make it easier to qualify for health and pension benefits. Hands down this is the strongest contract we have achieved in our history.
Full details of the agreement will be coming in the days ahead. The next step in the process will be a ratification vote. Documents are already being prepared and arrangements made for this. Keep an eye out for an announcement in the weeks ahead and let’s see if we can turn out as many people to vote in that process as voted on the authorization ballot.
Our campaign became the focal point of a month of Labor actions across the country. In a time that will go down in Labor history as Striketober, you and your IATSE kin shined. Your actions have emboldened workers in other industries who have found the courage to stand up and fight back. Of that you should all be proud.
It has been our incredible honor to be there with you for this fight, representing you at the table and making sure your voice was heard. We are excited by the resulting agreement and the promise that it holds for the future, but more than that we are so overjoyed by what we have all done together and how our Union has grown. We hope this is just the beginning and you will all stay engaged. There is still much work to do and other battles to be fought and we will need you there with us to achieve victory.
Together we rise.
Nelson Coates, President
Chuck Parker, National Executive Director
dooner, Associate National Executive Director,
Make sure to check back on Sunday if there’s any more news, and also look for Mark London Williams‘ Strike Alert column on Tuesday that will go through the implications of the agreement and the reaction from members.