IATSE president Matthew Loeb said Wednesday that ongoing contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers have reached a “critical juncture,” and that “if the mega-corporations that make up the AMPTP remain unwilling to address our core priorities and treat workers with human dignity, it is going to take the combined solidarity of all of us to change their minds.”
“We are united in demanding more humane working conditions across the industry, including reasonable rest during and between workdays and on the weekend, equitable pay on streaming productions, and a livable wage floor,” Loeb said in a statement today.
An industry source, meanwhile, countered by saying that the union’s members “have it pretty good” and made the case why that is so, noting that the average full-time worker is making more than $100,000 a year, with health benefits that the union itself often refers to as a “Cadillac” health plan.
The union’s film and TV contract, covering IATSE’s 13 Hollywood studio locals, expired on September 10 but bargaining has continued.
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IATSE leaders say that these negotiations are unlike any that have gone before – not only because the talks are being conducted in the midst of a global pandemic and that the growth of streaming content has changed business models dramatically, but also because, they say, the concentration of power among the “mega-corporations” they’re dealing with has made bargaining all the more difficult.
“If the mega-corporations that make up the AMPTP remain unwilling to address our core priorities and treat workers with human dignity, it is going to take the combined solidarity of all of us to change their minds,” Loeb said today in a statement on the status of the negotiations. “We are united in demanding more humane working conditions across the industry, including reasonable rest during and between workdays and on the weekend, equitable pay on streaming productions, and a livable wage floor.”
The AMPTP, he said, “consists of some of the richest corporations on the planet, which have earned record profits on the backs of our labor due to the unprecedented growth of video content streaming.”
Thom Davis, business manager of IATSE Grips Local 80 and IATSE’s 2nd international vice president, told his members recently that “There is no question that the consolidation of the corporations in the entertainment industry has had a profound impact. That technology has made production unrecognizable from what it was not too many years ago. In these negotiations there is an air about them that I have not seen before. You can sense the corporate influence. In the past, although nothing ever came easy, you always knew that you were dealing with the production companies that were producing the product. Today, one gets the feeling that our demands are given to the Labor Relations people that we are negotiating with, and they then have to report up to the corporate heads.”
“There may come a point when we as members of the IATSE are asked to give authorization to use the ultimate weapon which is the withholding of our talents and labor,” Davis said in a Labor Day message to his members. “If we find ourselves at that point each and every member will have a voice on that question. There has been chatter on sets and on social media about a strike vote. The process is such that the question of giving the International the authority to call for a strike will be sent to each and every member to vote on. And at the end of the day, whether it is voting to accept what was negotiated, or if it is to authorize your union to call for collective action, it is the membership that will be deciding on where we go and how we proceed.”
An industry source told Deadline that “people who work in the entertainment industry are fortunate and IATSE crew members are no exception. IATSE members have good jobs. The average hourly rate paid to IATSE employees is $57.99 and the average hourly scale rate is $48.45 per hour. Annualized at 40 hours per week, that’s $120,619 and $100,776, respectively.” And that doesn’t include the vast amount of overtime that has become the norm – which the union wants to see less of.
IATSE members also have “marvelous health and pension plans,” the source said. “Unlike most American workers today, IATSE members have access to excellent health benefits where there are no premiums for participants and very little cost to cover dependents – $300 per year for participant plus one dependent, and $600 per year for participant plus two or more dependents. Crew members have a generous pension plan plus individual retirement account contributions of six percent of scale earnings, paid by employers – for every job.”
“When productions are interrupted,” the source said, “it threatens the health and pension plans. The Covid-19 pandemic brought productions to a halt, and the IATSE pension and health plans lost $10 million per week – from April thru August 2020.”
As for the union’s demand for more rest time during productions, the source noted that “A vast majority of productions provide a 10-hour rest period and offer free meals and time to eat the meal. Safety of crew members is a priority. If a crew member is too tired to drive home after work, employers offer a courtesy hotel or a ride home. During the term of this contract, there have been no reports of IATSE members being denied a ride home or hotel room, if requested.”