Strike threat looms over negotiations between Hollywood union and producers

A tungsten light, used in film and television production.
Photo credit Getty Images

A Hollywood union is talking about going out on strike as they try to nail down a new contract, and negotiations with the major studios do not appear to be approaching a resolution.

Union leaders for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees want a new three-year deal. They are seeking a bigger percentage of streaming revenue, more rest time amid long hours and more funding for their pension plans.

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IATSE represents some 43,000 Hollywood workers, according to the Los Angeles Times, and more than 150,000 workers in the U.S. and Canada. The Hollywood locals contain behind-the-scenes workers such as prop makers, camera operators and other technicians. Union members say their work conditions are brutal.

Matt Belloni is the former top editor of the Hollywood Reporter and is the co-founder of the Hollywood-focused website Puck News. He said productions could definitely be affected by the continued lack of a deal. But because the IATSE locals in Hollywood have not been on strike in decades, no one knows exactly how this will play out. Adding to that uncertainty is what will happen if other guilds strike in solidarity.

“We’ll see what the studios do here because nobody wants to strike,” he said.

But some argue now that a strike threat while productions are trying to catch up from pandemic-related delays could give the union leverage.

“There have been complaints about excessive working hours, etc., as the industry began to catch up from delayed production,” Daniel Mitchell, professor emeritus at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, told the Times. “A strike threat that would impede production would be more effective from the union perspective now than in a more normal situation.”

Union representatives say that though the current work conditions are rough, the issues being negotiated are not new.

“Many of these issues IATSE has been trying to negotiate for a number of contract cycles and there hasn’t been substantive progress,” Marisa Shipley, vice president of Local 871 and an art department coordinator, told the Times.

Belloni is ultimately confident a deal can be hammered out, but union leadership appears to be rallying its members for a fight.

“We don’t know what the vote will be — contract ratification or strike authorization — but we know it is coming, and we need local members to speak out in large numbers,” Deadline reported the union saying in a Sept. 7 message to members.

IATSE leadership upped its rhetoric on Wednesday saying the negotiations were at a “critical juncture.”

“The AMPTP [Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] consists of some of the richest corporations on the planet, which have earned record profits on the backs of our labor due to the unprecedented growth of video content streaming,ȁ