Hollywood strike is averted, but it’s unclear if IATSE members will ratify tentative deal with studios

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Caleigh Wells and Angie Perrin

A person walks by a banner in support of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) outside the Costume Designers Guild offices in Burbank, California, U.S., October 7, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni.

A catastrophic strike of 60,000 film production workers — people like camera operators, technicians and stagehands — was averted today. IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) leadership struck a tentative deal with major Hollywood studios just hours before production crews were scheduled to walk offset and strike. 

Some of the three-year agreement’s highlights include a 10-hour break between shifts, a 54-hour weekend rest period, penalties for not taking meals during work, health and pension benefits, and a living wage (starting at $23.50/hour if the deal goes through, and $26/hour by the end of three years). 

Union members must ratify the brokered deal, but some plan to vote against it because they say it’s not good enough.

What are members particularly unsatisfied about? Streaming companies pay too low of a residual into the health and pension plan, the 3% wage hike is not high enough, and meal penalities aren’t strong enough to force production workers to actually take a lunch break, explains Gene Maddaus, senior media writer for Variety. 

“Do workers deserve more? Workers always deserve more,” says Rebecca Rhine, national executive director of International Cinematographers Guild. “The question is: Will they get more? And the answer is yes. If we build on the solidarity that we developed during this, no local was left behind. Every local that had issues had them addressed in some way.” 

Studios have been publicly quiet about this. Maddaus says, “If you got them on the record, they would probably say that they gave up a fair amount, but they're happy to keep the industry going. And if this is what it took to do that, then that's fine.” 

He says if the vote were held today, there’s a 95% chance of no ratification, as indicated by some Facebook groups. However, the vote will likely happen several weeks from now. Before then, more details will emerge, and leadership will have greater opportunities to make their case that this is a good deal. 

If rank-and-file members do not ratify the agreement, Rhine says they could go on strike and/or both sides would go back to the negotiating table. 

“There is no guarantee that you will even get what you have on the table right now,” she says. 

“All bets would be off at that point,” says Maddaus. “We've sort of been in uncharted waters for several weeks. … Taking a strike authorization vote was a … historic radical step for them [IATSE]. And then a lot of people thought they were gonna follow it up and actually go on strike, which would have been the first in their history, which goes back to 1893.” 

He continues, “If they voted it down, that would be another sort of cataclysmic shock. So who knows what would happen at that point, but we're already in a situation where there's a lot of anger out there, and it's sort of a question of where does it get channeled. Does it … dissipate or does it go towards a no vote? Does it go in some other direction? That's not clear yet.”

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