The show goes on; IATSE strike averted

The two unions were able to reach an agreement before the 12:01 a.m. deadline on Oct. 18th.

By Isaac Dektor, News Editor

60 thousand members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees were prepared to strike if a new deal lacked their demands. (Graphic Illustration by Vickie Guzman/The Valley Star)

Hollywood’s trade union reached an agreement with major studios and streaming services recently, averting a strike that would have hamstrung an industry in overdrive.

A tentative three year agreement between The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) was struck just three days after IATSE announced its ultimatum and deadline for negotiations. If a deal was not made by midnight on Oct. 17, 60,000 workers would strike. The Basic and Videotape Agreements, which still must be ratified by the union’s members, includes many victories for IATSE such as increased meal period penalties, ten hour turnaround between work days and living wage for the lowest earners.

Mike Miller, vice president and motion picture director for IATSE, said that the new agreement will be a win-win for not only the behind-the-scenes workers that his union represents, but for the studios as well.

“Our members will see significant improvements, but our employers also will benefit,” said Miller. “This settlement allows pre-production, production and post-production to continue without interruption. Workers should have improved morale and be more alert. Health and safety standards have been upgraded.”

IATSE’s ultimatum came in the wake of 36 IATSE local unions across the country overwhelmingly supporting a strike in a vote last week.

Tensions reached a breaking point between IATSE and AMPTP amid COVID-19 working conditions. According to The New York Times, major studios put production in overdrive to make up for lost time during the pandemic as stay-at-home orders drove up the demand for content. Additionally, a prior contract allowed streaming services with less than 20 million subscribers to slash workers’ pay. As streaming giants such as Netflix became increasingly profitable, many within IATSE began to call for new rules regarding the maturing companies. AMPTP is the bargaining face of major studios such as Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, Netflix, principle broadcast television and other powerhouses of entertainment.

“This is a Hollywood ending,” said Matthew D. Loeb, international president of IATSE for the last 13 years. “Our members stood firm. We are tough and united.”

Valley College Media Arts department chair Eric Swelstad is a member of the writer’s guild, which set the precedent for bargaining in the entertainment industry through its successful 2007-08 strike.

“With the plethora of money that's coming out of the streaming services during the pandemic - it's only fair that when you're making a lot of money you have to pass on that money,” said Swelstad.

He observed that a new agreement between IATSE and AMPTP would likely impact Valley students hoping to break into the entertainment industry.

“We pride ourselves in getting students started in their field - going straight from the school to the stage. Most people start as PAS and work their way up from there,” said Swelstad. “We’ll continue to tell students to expect long hours.”

Production assistants are not represented by IATSE and will not receive the new union benefits that have resulted from the contract.

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