Hollywood Union Authorizes Strike, Seeking Shorter Hours
(Bloomberg) -- One of Hollywood’s most powerful unions has voted to authorize a strike, threatening a walkout that could cripple movie and TV studios still trying to come back from Covid-19 shutdowns.
The vote was nearly unanimous, with 98% of the ballots backing the authorization, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees said Monday. An estimated 60,000 IATSE members, mostly based in Los Angeles, could walk off the job if the union’s leadership decides to order a strike.
The vote gives additional negotiating leverage to IATSE President Matthew Loeb, who said in an Oct. 1 letter to members that “producers have not responded to our core priorities in any meaningful way.”
Later Monday, the website Deadline.com reported that two sides have agreed to meet Tuesday for their first talks in more than two months.
The workers are seeking shorter hours as part of a new contract. Production schedules have been particularly grueling since the industry began reopening from pandemic-related shutdowns. IATSE has never gone on strike. The jobs involved are critical behind-the-scenes roles, including camera operators, editors and art directors.
Three of the union’s chapters are actually national in scope, meaning a strike by those groups would halt work across the country, affecting almost 1 million jobs directly tied to film and TV production.
Film and TV studios have been struggling to ramp up following pandemic-related closures and new health precautions that were put in place. Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney Co. have both cited the challenges of getting new programming for their streaming services as contributing to weaker-than-expected growth in subscriptions.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, representing major studios, as well as Netflix and Amazon.com Inc., had previously said it “put forth a deal-closing, comprehensive proposal that meaningfully addresses the IATSE’s key bargaining issues.”
After the vote was announced, the group said Monday it is “committed” to working with IATSE to “avoid shutting down the industry at such a pivotal time, particularly since the industry is still recovering from the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The key issues, the union says, are rest and meal breaks, and a higher wage for the lowest-paid workers, some of whom earn roughly $15 an hour. Members are also seeking more revenue from streaming services, as some of the new media jobs don’t pay the same wages or contribute to pensions like traditional film and TV work.
Parties on both sides of the bargaining table still have memories of a crippling writers strike 13 years ago that dragged on for 100 days. It cost the industry $2 billion, according to the Milken Institute, and was felt beyond the industry by a range of businesses, from restaurants to tailors, that rely on production for business.
A 2021 report from the Motion Picture Association estimated 2.5 million people worked in the U.S. film and television industry, with 910,000 of those positions directly related to production and distribution.
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