IATSE members prepare for nationwide strike

IATSE members are mobilizing in preparation of a nationwide strike as they meet a stalemate after months of contract negotiations with producers.

The strike vote may happen as early as October 3 which will impact the many shows currently in production in Chicago. The key points of concern are the health and safety of crew, and appropriate wages to compensate work provided. This includes what is still referred to as “New Media” streaming projects that have grown to rival major blockbuster film production.

“Our members health, happiness and security is our main focus,” said Brad Matthys, President of Studio Mechanics Local 476 Chicago. “We’re very concerned about the negotiations for our quality of life issues, and issues of setting pay for some of our negotiated wages, and the fact that our crews are working too many hours and too many days without days off. This has been an ongoing problem across the country and it’s the reason we lose some of our best technicians because they feel they have a right to a weekend off and time with their family.”

The subject of the large-scale streaming shows which until now has been unaddressed is a big point of the negotiation. “The streaming shows are massive,” said Matthys. “They’re on a par with a lot of features. They’re large in scope, large in crews, and the compensation needs to be better for these projects. The time has come to address this but the producers are seeing fit to not address it at all.” 

“Everyone seems to be dug in on their position on this. We’re hoping that cooler heads will prevail and they can get to a position where they can bargain in good faith,” said Matthys. “The mechanics of what’s going on are quite confusing for the membership and for the union in a lot of instances. We’re wading through the information as it comes and trying to disseminate it as best we can for our members.”

IATSE released this statement today:

AMPTP Negotiations Stalled, Union to Hold Strike Authorization Vote

After months of negotiating successor contracts to the Producer-IATSE Basic Agreement, and the Theatrical and Television Motion Picture Area Standard Agreement, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) announced Monday it does not intend to make any counteroffer to the
IATSE’s most recent proposal.

Throughout the bargaining process, the AMPTP has failed to work with us on
addressing the most grievous problems in their workplaces, including:
• Excessively unsafe and harmful working hours.
• Unlivable wages for the lowest paid crafts.
• Consistent failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks, between
workdays, and on weekends.
• Workers on certain “new media” streaming projects get paid less, even on
productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released

It is incomprehensible that the AMPTP, an ensemble that includes media megacorporations collectively worth trillions of dollars, claims it cannot provide behind-the-scenes crews with basic human necessities like adequate sleep, meal breaks, and living wages. Worse, management does not appear to even recognize our core issues as problems that exist in the first place.

These issues are real for the workers in our industry, and change is long overdue. However, the explosion of streaming combined with the pandemic has elevated and aggravated working conditions, bringing 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers covered by these contracts to a breaking point. We risked our health and safety all year, working through the Pandemic to ensure that our business emerged intact. Now, we cannot and will not accept a deal that leaves us with an unsustainable outcome.

In response to the AMPTP’s tactics, IATSE members are mobilizing in preparation of a nationwide strike authorization vote to demonstrate our commitment to achieving the change that is long overdue in this industry.

Reel Chicago will be providing updates to this ongoing story.

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