One week after IATSE members voted overwhelmingly to authorize its union to call a potential strike, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) were back at the bargaining table Monday, as Hollywood anxiously awaited further word on the talks.
Negotiations restarted last Tuesday and continued through the weekend, during which time several groups of union members gathered to create signs for picketing, should IATSE international president Matthew D. Loeb call a strike. Some Instagram accounts, as well as Local 600, which hosted a sign-making event alongside Locals 700 and 44, shared images of signs stating “We are not a line item” and “Fighting for living wages.”
On Friday, Loeb said in a statement disseminated by Locals to members that, when it comes to the next step, “It is a matter of days, not weeks.” At least some Locals also told their membership that they are dedicated to bargaining with the studios, but at some point, if an agreement is not reached, action will be taken.
“There has been some movement but [negotiators] are still a ways apart,” one union insider apprised of the state of negotiations said Monday. “My understanding is they still continue to engage in negotiations while doing preparation like building picket signs this weekend in case we need them.”
A studio source said they could give “no real update, other than that talks are going.” In terms of timeline, “I think everyone shares a ‘sooner rather than later’ way of looking at it,” the source added.
At stake is a new Basic Agreement for 13 West Coast Locals as well as a new Area Standards Agreement and Videotape Agreement, which have all expired. About 60,000 entertainment workers including cinematographers, editors, costumers, grips, make-up artists and hair stylists work under these agreements. Some IATSE workers say they were told over the weekend to take belongings home from work seemingly in preparation for a potential work stoppage.
As talks restarted last week, union sources told The Hollywood Reporter that they’ve met resistance in their push for greater enforcement of meal break and weekend rest periods, higher minimum rates for low-paid crafts, higher streaming residuals and improvements in work conditions. Last week, a studio source said that “In general, I would say we’re probably not far apart on many of these [points],” but that weekends hadn’t yet been fully addressed in talks. Both sides have had productive talks on meal breaks and have made progress on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Before the union could ever call a strike, it has to fulfill a legal obligation to negotiate with the studios in good faith, reminds the union insider.
Thirteen locals are covered by the Basic Agreement including the largest, Local 600, the International Cinematographers Guild, counting 9,000 members (92 percent of its eligible members participated in the strike authorization vote, with 99 percent voting “yes”). Local 700, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, is also one of the largest with 8,500 members (it reported that 92 percent of its eligible voters participated, with 98 percent voting “yes”).
Also covered under the Basic Agreement are Local 800 (art directors), Local 44 (affiliated property craftspersons), Local 80 (studio grips, crafts service, set medics, marine department and warehouse workers), Local 695 (production sound technicians, television engineers, video assist technicians and studio projectionists), Local 705 (motion picture costumers), Local 706 (makeup artists and hairstylists), Local 728 (studio electrical lighting technicians), Local 729 (set painters and sign writers), Local 884 (studio teachers), Local 871 (script supervisors/continuity, coordinators, accountants and allied production specialists) and Local 892 (costume designers).
The union revealed on Oct. 4 that more than 98 percent of eligible union members voted to authorize a strike. While a strike would lead to work stoppages on union projects nationwide, it would likely not directly affect productions produced under the union’s Commercials agreement, Low Budget agreement and Pay TV agreement.