We’ve been trying to keep you up to date on the negotiations between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for a Basic Agreement contract that lapsed on Friday, Sept. 10, as well as for the Television and Theatrical Motion Picture Area Standards Agreement. The union’s film and television contract covers 13 Hollywood studio locals and 60,000 Motion Picture and Television workers (roughly 40% of IATSE’s total membership, which includes theater, stage, concert, and other workers).
There have been sporadic updates posted to the Basic Agreement site, and the latest one comes from IATSE International President Matt Loeb, who posted an update on Wednesday saying that the negotiations between the two groups have reached a “critical juncture,” saying, “We are united in demanding more humane working conditions across the industry, including reasonable rest during and between workdays and on the weekend, equitable pay on streaming productions, and a livable wage floor.”
Loeb went on to say that “if the mega-corporations that make up the AMPTP remain unwilling to address our core priorities and treat workers with human dignity, it is going to take the combined solidarity of all of us to change their minds.”
You can read Loeb’s full statement as posted to the update
Loeb’s statement concludes with, “If the mega-corporations that make up the AMPTP remain unwilling to address our core priorities and treat workers with human dignity, it is going to take the combined solidarity of all of us to change their minds. We are united in demanding more humane working conditions across the industry, including reasonable rest during and between workdays and on the weekend, equitable pay on streaming productions, and a livable wage floor.”
Deadline has reached out to an anonymous industry source to comment on the negotiations for an agreement with one person stating that union members “have it pretty good” before getting into the specifics about the money. “People who work in the entertainment industry are fortunate, and IATSE crew members are no exception. IATSE members have good jobs. The average hourly rate paid to IATSE employees is $57.99 and the average hourly scale rate is $48.45 per hour. Annualized at 40 hours per week, that’s $120,619 and $100,776, respectively,” the source told Deadline.
The source also said that the IATSE members have “marvelous health and pension plans,” making the statement, “Unlike most American workers today, IATSE members have access to excellent health benefits where there are no premiums for participants and very little cost to cover dependents – $300 per year for participant plus one dependent, and $600 per year for participant plus two or more dependents. Crew members have a generous pension plan plus individual retirement account contributions of six percent of scale earnings, paid by employers – for every job.”
The source also stated the obvious about how interrupting productions with a walk-out or strike hurts everyone, “When productions are interrupted, it threatens the health and pension plans. The Covid-19 pandemic brought productions to a halt, and the IATSE pension and health plans lost $10 million per week from April thru August 2020.”
IATSE leaders have said that these negotiations are unlike any that have gone before, not only due to the global pandemic and growth of streaming that has changed the business models, but also that the concentration of power at what Loeb calls “mega-corporations” has made bargaining even tougher for the unions.
In a statement to the members of IATSE Grips Local 80, the IATSE’s 2nd International Vice President, Thom Davis, said (also courtesy Deadline), “There is no question that the consolidation of the corporations in the entertainment industry has had a profound impact. That technology has made production unrecognizable from what it was not too many years ago. In these negotiations, there is an air about them that I have not seen before. You can sense the corporate influence. In the past, although nothing ever came easy, you always knew that you were dealing with the production companies that were producing the product. Today, one gets the feeling that our demands are given to the Labor Relations people that we are negotiating with, and they then have to report up to the corporate heads.”
He continues, “There may come a point when we as members of the IATSE are asked to give authorization to use the ultimate weapon which is the withholding of our talents and labor,” Davis said in a Labor Day message to his members. “If we find ourselves at that point each and every member will have a voice on that question. There has been chatter on sets and on social media about a strike vote. The process is such that the question of giving the International the authority to call for a strike will be sent to each and every member to vote on. And at the end of the day, whether it is voting to accept what was negotiated, or if it is to authorize your union to call for collective action, it is the membership that will be deciding on where we go and how we proceed.”
Deadline‘s source says that the demand for more rest time doesn’t make sense, since it’s already being addressed. “A vast majority of productions provide a 10-hour rest period and offer free meals and time to eat the meal. Safety of crew members is a priority. If a crew member is too tired to drive home after work, employers offer a courtesy hotel or a ride home. During the term of this contract, there have been no reports of IATSE members being denied a ride home or hotel room, if requested.”
Presumably, we’ll have new updates and reports on the negotiations for this important agreement over the next few days and weeks, so stay tuned to Below the Line where we’ll try to keep you informed as new statements are made and the negotiations reach their conclusion.