The union representing people who work behind the scenes is calling for a strike authorization vote now that talks have stalled with film and television producers.
Union leaders for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees are seeking a new three-year deal. IATSE represents around 43,000 workers in Hollywood, according to the Los Angeles Times. But, the group has more than 150,000 workers across the U.S. and Canada, meaning any deal the Hollywood locals make could have repercussions elsewhere.
The union represents behind-the-scenes workers such as prop makers, camera operators and other technicians. The historic call for a strike authorization comes after months of negotiations between the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Union members say the current work conditions are unsustainable.
“[Union members] want reasonable rest between workdays. They want a bigger share of the streaming revenues. And they want higher wages across the board but especially for some of the lower-earning crafts that make only like $17 an hour,” said Dave Robb, Deadline Hollywood’s labor reporter.
Even if union members authorize a potential strike that does not necessarily mean crew members will walk. An authorization vote would just give union president Matthew D. Loeb permission to call a strike if he can not reach a deal with the major studios.
“There’s no doubt that the members are ready, I think, to go on strike if they have to,” said Robb.
But Matt Belloni, the former top editor of the Hollywood Reporter and co-founder of the Hollywood-focused website Puck News, said he is confident the two sides can come to an agreement.
“We’ll see what the studios do here because nobody wants to strike,” he said.
The L.A. Times reported that IATSE is saying the producers have not even responded to their latest proposals.
“This failure to continue negotiating can only be interpreted one way,” the IATSE negotiating committee said in a statement Monday, according to The Times. “They simply will not address the core issues we have repeatedly advocated for from the beginning. As a result, we will now proceed with a nationwide strike authorization vote to demonstrate our commitment to achieving the change that is long overdue in this industry.”
Union leaders submitted a proposal on Sept. 12.
The production companies said television and film productions are still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and contend the union is walking away from a good deal.
“When we began negotiations with the IATSE months ago, we discussed the economic realities and the challenges facing the entertainment industry as we work to recover from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the group said in a Monday statement, wrote The Times.
“In choosing to leave the bargaining table to seek a strike authorization vote, the IATSE leadership walked away from a generous comprehensive package.”
There has not been a major strike or walkout since the 1945 set decorators strike that resulted in a brawl fight between strikers and police forces. The Oct. 5 event is known as Hollywood’s "Bloody Friday.”