After more than a week in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), film and TV union International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) has put a deadline on its workers walking out on current projects.
According to IATSE president Matthew Loeb, around 60,000 union members will go without a paycheck starting Monday, Oct. 18, 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time, unless negotiations are settled for better working conditions and pay.
Union members across 36 chapters nationwide voted in support of the strike last week, with 90% turnout approving of its authorization and over 98% in favor of granting Loeb the power to initiate the strike. Loeb said in a press release the team keeps working with producers from AMPTP to address core issues affecting its 150,000 technicians, artisans and craftspeople in the entertainment industry.
Top of mind are better wages, especially for minimum-wage workers, meal breaks and longer breaks between weekend shoots, as well as renegotiating streamer contracts that were given a “discount” over a decade ago in their infancy but now account for a great deal of content. According to Nielsen’s ratings, 27% of content is streamed as of July 2021, higher than 23% of broadcast (cable still tops out at 40%).
Variety reported last week AMPTP has agreed to some demands, including guaranteeing workers at least 10-hour breaks between shifts, time off on weekends, as well as crews being compensated if meal breaks are missed. Progress also was made on streaming contracts. Still, Loeb said in a press release a finite timeline was needed on negotiations, as “the pace of bargaining doesn’t reflect any sense of urgency.”
“Without an end date, we could keep talking forever,” he added. “Our members deserve to have their basic needs addressed now.”
IATSE is the oldest entertainment union in the country and the strike will be the first of its kind in more than 125 years. If the strike happens, a tremendous amount of artistic content being created will stop in its tracks. Locally, several projects are underway in Wilmington, such as Amazon’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” Fox’s “Our Kind of People,” and Netflix’s “Florida Man” and “Echoes,” as well as the indie film “Breakwater.”
“Our people have basic human needs, like time for meal breaks, adequate sleep, and a weekend,” Loeb stated in a previous press release.
IATSE represents gaffers, grips, plasters and other “below-the-line” employees. The union covers TV, film, Broadway, concerts, trade shows and more entertainment employees who work behind the scenes, though current negotiations primarily affect the film industry.
“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,” Jarryd Gonzales, a spokesperson for AMPTP, wrote in an email last week, “particularly since the industry is still recovering from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Wilmington has experienced an uptick in productions locally since summer 2020, when “Scream” (see the trailer here) set up at Screen Gems/EUE Studios as one of Paramount’s first productions back since the pandemic shut down the industry. Multiple films and TV series have set up in town since, including “The Black Phone” (see trailer here) and STARZ’s “Hightown” (see trailer here). The economic impact of the industry has 2021 on track to be one of North Carolina’s greatest years yet, exceeding $400 million.
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