First published in the Oct. 16 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
About 60,000 behind-the-scenes film and television workers will go on strike at 12:01 a.m. Monday unless a labor deal is reached, the workers’ union announced this week, putting pressure on producers to get a deal done and avoid a mass production shutdown.
Matthew Loeb, the president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees International, said negotiations are ongoing with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
“However, the pace of bargaining doesn’t reflect any sense of urgency,” Loeb said in a statement. “Without an end date, we could keep talking forever. Our members deserve to have their basic needs addressed now.”
IATSE is calling for a labor contract that addresses core issues such as reasonable rest periods, meal breaks and a living wage for those on the bottom of the salary scale.
IATSE members who work in television and film production at 36 IATSE local unions across the country — including 13 on the West Coast — voted Oct. 1-3 to authorize the union’s president to call a strike if contract talks didn’t result in a new contract.
Voter turnout was 90%, with 98.6% of those voting in support of authorizing a strike.
In a statement Wednesday following the union announcement, the AMPTP said, “There are five whole days left to reach a deal, and the studios will continue to negotiate in good faith in an effort to reach an agreement for a new contract that will keep the industry working.”
As of Friday morning, no agreement had been announced.
The union represents “below the line” workers such as production and department coordinators, writers’ assistants, cinematographers, costumers, grips, script supervisors, technicians, designers and others.
After the union members voted to authorize a strike, AMPTP released a statement saying it “remains committed to reaching an agreement that will keep the industry working.
“We deeply value our IATSE crew members and are committed to working with them 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 producers’ statement said.
“A deal can be made at the bargaining table, but it will require both parties working together in good faith with a willingness to compromise and to explore new solutions to resolve the open issues.”
Earlier this month, state Rep. Adam Schiff and state Sen. Alex Padilla, joined with 118 U.S. senators and congressional representatives in sending a letter to the AMPTP, urging the association to negotiate collaboratively and in good faith.
The contract between IATSE and AMPTP expired at the end of July, although it was extended to Sept. 10.
If the union does call for a walkout, it would be the first such action by IATSE in more than a century, crippling a film industry already struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.