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IATSE Reports Progress in Talks, Releases Strike FAQ, While Locals Prepare (UPDATED)

October 15, 2021 08:45 | By

ColorIATSELogoOn Wednesday, IATSE International President Matthew Loeb announced that a strike would happen if an agreement isn’t reached by Monday, October 18 at 12:01 AM, which is less than three days away.

Negotiations have continued with AMPTP, representing the studios, over the past two days in hopes that this strike won’t happen, and it’s been said that there’s “good progress” but IATSE is also planning ahead for how this strike will take place if the AMPTP isn’t able to achieve an accord for a new Basic Agreement and an Area Standards Agreement by Monday. A strike would affect 60,000 workers within 36 local unions.

At the same time, IATSE has released a FAQ in hopes of answering some of the many questions that many of those 60,000 might have right now. The FAQ talks about how picketing will work, and that members will be expected to put in four hours a day on the picket line. It also noted that members who continue to work on struck shows would be fined and risk expulsion from the union, while non-members (i.e. scabs) that take the work of striking IATSE members could jeopardize being allowed into the union in the future.

The FAQ lists the exact locals that will be striking and also says, as we’ve reported previously, that “a few contracts will remain in force and are not subject to this dispute,” listing them as Sports Broadcasting, Low Budget Theatrical, Pay Television (HBO, Showtime, Starz), Commercial Agreements, Music Production Agreements, and certain independent agreements. The FAQ further clarifies that the Pay Television Agreement “only covers product produced by pay cable companies for exhibition on their pay cable channels.” Streaming services, on the other hand, work under the Basic Agreement, and the FAQ recommends that members check with their Local under which contract their jobs are covered, if unsure.

Art Directors Guild, Local 800 members were told at a town hall on Thursday, “Assume there will be a strike and hope there isn’t.”

The sound union, Local 695, in North Hollywood has been reported to have put out a call for strike captains on Thursday for 21 picket locations with picket leaders requiring training over the weekend in case of strike.

Scott Bernard, business representative of Local 695, told its members that the talks have resumed after the strike date announcement, stating, “We worked into the night and made some good progress. We are not where we need to be and will continue bargaining today while simultaneously continuing the strike preparation.”

UPDATE: Atlanta’s IATSE Local 479 for Motion Picture Studio Mechanics told its members:

“The employers are starting to realize that it’s time for them to get down to business. In the last 24 hours, several proposals have been exchanged. They know that their time is running out, and they are finally bringing some real conversations to the table. We are still hopeful for a deal before Sunday night, affectively avoiding a strike.

Strike Organizer Kevin Cheatham has identified Strike Captains and assigned Picket Captains on each affected show in town. He met with them virtually last night (and will again tonight) to make sure they have their marching orders and are ready to answer your questions. In most cases, your shop stewards will be your Picket Captains, so please make a point of seeking those individuals out for more information about what is needed and expected.

As we continue with our strike preparations, we are teaming up with Local 600 to host an event this Saturday afternoon from 1pm-5pm here at the Local 479 hall to make picket signs. Please bring any supplies you may have and come join us!”

The studios seem to be optimistic that an agreement can be reached on Friday, although some workers have already been warned that they may have to work on Saturday and Sunday in order to finish projects before a possible Monday shutdown. This would be the first time in IATSE’s 143-year history that a strike has been called for.

Unions in Atlanta and New York have organized solidarity events for Saturday and Sunday, respectively, to prepare picket signs. You can read about the Atlanta event above, and we’ll try to get more details on what’s happening in New York.

Deadline has reported that a possible strike is getting support from overseas in the form of UK broadcasting union, Bectu, who has told its own members “do nothing to undermine the IATSE action.” Thousands of UK union members received an Email sent by Bectu head Philippa Childs saying that their union was “fully behind the strike,” and she asked all members to turn down scab work if asked to replace a striking IATSE member. Instead, they should contact the union. IATSE members in the UK working on related US film projects are also preparing to strike if the weekend talks end in a stalemate, according to Variety.

This being breaking news, expect updates on Friday and through the weekend.

You can read the entire detail FAQ released below:

1. Which Locals will be on strike?

The 13 West Coast Studio Locals, three of which are national (Locals 600, 700 and 800), will all be on strike: Locals 44, 80, 600, 695, 700, 705, 706, 728, 729, 800, 871, 884, and 892. Studio Mechanics across the country, and in some areas Local 161 (Script Supervisors, Accountants and Production Coordinators), Local USA-829 (United Scenic Artists), and Local 798 (Hair and Make Up) will also be on strike.

Studio Mechanics Locals / Locals with Motion Picture and Television Jurisdiction

Local 7 (Denver-Boulder, CO)
Local 38 (Detroit-Pontiac-Mt. Clemens-Port Huron, MI)
Local 99 (State Of UT/Noise-Nampa-Caldwell-Twin Falls-Sun Valley, ID/Southern ID)
Local 122 (San Diego-Palm Springs-Palm Desert-Hemet-Banning-Elsinore/29 Palms, CA)
Local 209 (OH)
Local 477 (FL)
Local 478 (LA, Southern MS and Mobile, AL)
Local 479 (GA [with the exception of the City of Savannah] and AL [with the exception of the City of Mobile])
Local 480 (NM)
Local 481 (RI, ME, NH, VT and MA)
Local 484 (TX and OK)
Local 487 (Southern DE, MD, VA and Washington, D.C.)
Local 488 (Pacific Northwest)
Local 489 (Pittsburgh and in that area of PA within a fifty [50] mile radius of the city of Pittsburgh)
Local 490 (MN)
Local 491 (NC, SC and Savannah, GA)
Local 492 (TN and Northern MS)
Local 493 (St. Louis, MO)
Local 494 (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands)
Local 665 (State of HI)
Local 720 (Las Vegas, NV)

2. Now that a date has been set for a strike, what happens next?

President Loeb has announced that the strike will begin on Monday, October 18th at 12:01 am PDT if we do not reach an agreement by then. Please check your email in the morning before you report to work to confirm that a strike has been called. You should expect to report to the picket line at the studio or where you are working when the strike begins. If you are working at a practical location or working at a stage that is not on a studio lot, contact your Local and we will tell you where to report. Do not enter the workplace – remain outside on the picket line or, if there is no line, go to one of the staging locations. Make sure your contact information with your Local is up to date, so we can reach you if something changes.

3. I heard that if we strike, some members will get to work but others will not. Is that true?

A strike will impact all of us, but a few contracts will remain in force and are not subject to this dispute. Those include Sports Broadcasting, Low Budget Theatrical, Pay Television (HBO, Showtime, Starz), Commercial Agreements, Music Production Agreements, and certain independent agreements. Most of our work is not produced under those contracts. The Pay Television Agreement only covers product produced by pay cable companies for exhibition on their pay cable channels. Their productions for streaming services are covered under the Basic Agreement. You must check with the Local about any job before you continue to perform or accept new work. If there is any concern about whether your agreement prevents you from respecting a picket line, please call your IA representative. We will be coordinating closely about what work is not struck, and will be contacting the few members who are not required to strike in the event a strike is called.

4. In the event of a strike, can a member working under an unexpired contract choose to not work or not cross a picket line?

Generally speaking, yes. All workers have the individual right to honor a lawful picket line. This is usually referred to as a sympathy strike. However, you may be disciplined or replaced and not have some of the same rehire rights as a member who left work on a struck show as part of a strike. You have to follow your conscience. Some collective bargaining agreements may restrict sympathy strikes. Please contact your Local if you are concerned about whether your agreement prevents you from respecting a picket line. Click here for further information

5. Can I work non-union during a strike?

Struck work that is shifted to non-union employers remains subject to the strike. All members are required to call in their jobs prior to working. This requirement will be enforced. We will continue our efforts to organize work that is truly non-union.

6. What happens if I am on location when the strike begins?

Your employer is still legally required to arrange and pay for you and your equipment to return home. The employer is responsible for your housing and per diem until they make arrangements for you to leave for home. This is true whether you are working in the United States or outside the country under the agreement. You will need to take the return trip offer as they will not be required to continue housing you if you refuse the offer. If your employer refuses to get you home or you have a lease or other ongoing obligations that your employment required, contact your Local (or agent) for guidance.

If you are approached about being “held” with the payment of hold fees, that is inconsistent with being on strike and you should insist on being sent home.

7. What do I need to do this week before the strike?

You should collect your personal tools and belongings (computers, iPads, printers, etc.) and take them home on your last day of work prior to the strike. Make sure your timecard is completed and turned in. Reconcile and turn in all petty cash, mileage forms or other outstanding reimbursable expenses paperwork.

8. Can I wrap my gear? What should I do with any personal equipment? Will I need to wrap the rental gear I have?

Yes, you can reclaim your own personal equipment or equipment that is sub-rented by you. You should plan to do so before leaving work on Friday, October 15 or at the end of your last day of employment prior to Monday, October 18 at 12:01 am PT. Once the strike begins, you should not be wrapping any rental gear or other employer equipment as that is solely part of your work that is struck work.

If you cannot get all your equipment out before the strike begins, you should secure it in the appropriate place such as your trailer. Confirm with production that your equipment will be secure. Make sure you have an inventory and photos of what you are leaving. If you need access to your equipment during the strike, contact your employer to make arrangements. You should not be expected to be paid to collect your equipment – you are on STRIKE.

9. What if I am working from home?

If you have equipment provided by your employer at home, you should notify them that they should find a way to retrieve it.

10. Will I be expected to walk a picket line or support the strike in some way?

Yes. Every member will be required to do work to ensure the strike is successful. We will have a system of assignments for picket duty. Your local will contact you. If you are a Strike Captain you will be assigned to pick up supplies and check on volunteers and the day’s assignment. Picketing will be broken up into three shifts of four (4) hours every day. More specific direction will be provided by your local before Monday.

Outside of the Los Angeles area, supplies will be made available at the regional offices of the national locals and/or the offices of the Studio Mechanics Local in that area.

11. What if a member crosses the picket line? What if a member continues to do struck work?

People who cross the picket line and do our work for a struck employer are scabs. Members who scab will be in violation of the IATSE Constitution and Bylaws and will be subject to discipline by their Local and the International. Locals and/or the International can impose fines (including all amounts earned by the member while scabbing), issue public censure, suspend and/or expel scabs.

12. What if a non-member crosses a picket line?

If you scab, you risk membership. Non-members who scab jeopardize ever becoming members of this great Alliance. Members who know of scab work being performed should report that immediately. If you become aware of struck work being performed, please immediately notify your Local.

13. Can employers hire replacements?

Employers may try. We ask that nobody scab and take our work, as improving our working conditions will improve them for members and non-members alike. It is unlikely the employers can replace tens of thousands of the most talented and skilled craftspeople throughout the United States.

14. Do all of these same rules apply to other workers covered under the applicable agreements?

Yes. If a strike is called all covered workers would be required to withhold all services, regardless of whether they are working in person or remotely. They will be expected to participate in picketing or other strike activities. This would include studio publicists, story analysts, production and assistant production coordinators and other covered employees working out of offices or from their homes.

THE IMPACT OF STRIKE

15. Can I collect unemployment while I’m withholding services?

This is largely a function of state law and almost all states prohibit striking workers from collecting unemployment insurance. In California and every other state except as noted below the answer is “no.” Striking workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits in California.

Members working under the Basic Agreement or Area Standards Agreement in New York State can apply for unemployment benefits after 14 days; after 30 days in New Jersey. In addition, members who are already collecting unemployment benefits may continue to be eligible to receive them.

If the employers impose a lock out, members may be eligible to apply for and receive unemployment benefits. If you have questions regarding unemployment insurance, please refer them to your local counsel.

16. Will our dues be reduced or waived because of the strike?

Each Local’s elected leaders will make that decision in compliance with their governing documents as they did during the pandemic.

17. Is there an IA or Local Strike Fund?

No there is not an IATSE Strike Fund, however, some Locals may have assistance available for eligible members. While there may be some limited help for those most in need, during a strike you can expect to go without pay. You would not be prohibited from taking work outside of the industry in a totally unrelated industry or area.

18. Will I lose my health insurance?

The MPI Plans are structured so that participants are earning future benefits or banked hours with current work. Because of the various qualifying periods, you should check your MPI App for your particular details. Health care eligibility, however, is based upon hours worked and hours banked – both of which would be impacted at some point if you are not working for a long period.