With the news that the potential IATSE strike vote passed with 98% member support, crunch time in negotiations has arrived. If it goes ahead, this strike could be important for the industry as a whole. In fact, it may be the largest strike of its kind. With this in mind, Brandon Blake, industry expert and entertainment lawyer Los Angeles, breaks down where we currently stand.
That’s not to say anything is yet on the cards for definite. We saw talks resume Tuesday last week between the union and Hollywood producers. However, a 98% member vote to strike is an overwhelming majority and should be taken seriously. Apparently, 90% of eligible voters took part in the vote, so the overall mood of the union is clear.
IATSE, known more formally as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, represents a large proportion of off-screen workers. This covers everyone from make-up artists to camera operators and sound techs. A full strike could shut down film and TV production across the U.S, and could well have the same stopping power as the infamous 2007-2008 Writers Guild strike. The catch? Today we have a far more content-hungry industry that doesn’t have the sort of content backlog that partially cushioned that strike, so the impact could well be worse.
Hinges on streaming
While there are several key issues on the table, perhaps the most dominant one is the lower rates received in the industry for working on streaming content. These rate cards were first set when streaming was in its infancy a decade ago, and it was reasonable at the time. However, the digital revolution has accelerated, and post-2020 we’ve seen a massive swing to streaming from the major studios. What was once a few small projects is now the bulk of the industry- and thus the bulk of workers’ paychecks, too.
Other concerns focus on ‘quality of life’ for industry workers. Issues like forced skipping of meal and rest breaks, punishing back-to-back shifts with little downtime, and others are also on the table.
The vote authorization comes after months of failed talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents many of the major players in the TV and film production industry.
For the moment, resumed talks are still underway. Both sides have made feel-good statements about their commitment to keeping the industry at work, but both also are pushing responsibility for the unwillingness to compromise off on each other.
Where do we go from here? Hopefully, a final resolution can be reached that won’t stall the industry at a critical time for recovery in the wake of pandemic era shutdowns. If not, however, a full strike will be called and from there, we can’t really know. It will certainly have an unprecedented effect on the industry, and it will become incredibly difficult for content-hungry streaming services to keep up their push for new subscribers. As always, we will have a careful eye on the situation and keep you up to date with key developments.