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Arts and Entertainment

Hollywood Avoids Massive Strike Of Crew Members

A photo of the Hollywood sign during daytime.
The Hollywood sign.
(David McNew
Getty Images North America)
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After nearly half a year of contract talks with film and television producers, the union for Hollywood’s artisans and technicians has reached a tentative agreement and avoided an impending strike.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, whose 60,000 members include editors, cinematographers and costume designers, had set a Sunday midnight deadline for an improved contract.

IATSE’s negotiators have decided the latest offer from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers adequately addresses the union’s chief issues, including wages, overtime, turnaround time, workplace safety and a larger share of revenues from streaming services.

Union officials said they will now brief local leaders early this week and then move to an online ratification vote, similar to how they conducted the vote that overwhelmingly authorized a strike.

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How We Got Here

In that vote earlier this month, more than 90% of IATSE members had approved a strike authorization, that allowied union leaders to launch a work stoppage immediately.

The vote was unprecedented: Never before in its 128-year history had IATSE’s members authorized a national strike. Yet the situation has been years, if not decades, in the making, as the gap between Hollywood’s most powerful and its rank-and-file workers grew wider and wider; some of the industry’s highest-compensated executives now collect more than 1,000 times the income of their median employees.

During contract negotiations, some IATSE members reported that they did not make a living wage, which in Los Angeles County is more than $19 an hour — double that if you’re a single parent with one child (the current minimum wage is $15).

At the same time, the more successful entertainment companies — especially streamers — are raking in profits. In its most recent financial quarter, Netflix reported $1.85 billion dollars in operating income. Disney, which fired tens of thousands of theme park workers during the pandemic, banked $1.32 billion in operating income in the same quarter.

“Every worker in America deserves a fair share of that profit. And part of what's going on now is ‘what constitutes a fair share?’” says Steve Ross, a USC history professor who specializes in Hollywood history and labor. “We no longer have a situation where workers are getting a fair share. When an executive is getting $35 million as a bonus, and people are going on welfare, there's something wrong there.”

During negotiations, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said it was committed to coming to an agreement with IATSE. “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,” the AMPTP said recently.

What IATSA Said Was Agreed To

One of the key complaints by the union was the lack of true weekend breaks. The union, in a news released detailing the deal, noted AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler called the practice “Fraturday.” The terms of the deal guarantee a weekend rest period of 54 hours between the time work ends on a Friday and resumes Monday morning. Other points cited by the union:

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  • A living wage for the lowest-paid earners
  • Improved wages and working conditions for streaming service workers
  • Retroactive wage Increases of 3% annually
  • Increased meal period penalties
  • Daily rest periods of 10 hours without exclusions
  • Weekend rest periods of 54 hours
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday Holiday added to schedule
  • Adoption of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives