Workers in film and television who threatened to strike have approved new contracts between their unions and the studios. It means that Hollywood’s business can continue uninterrupted. massive work stoppage.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees reported Monday that the members of IATSE ratified three-year contracts that collectively cover approximately 60,000 workers. But each of the two ratification votes was extremely close, and the larger of the two contracts only passed due to the union’s Electoral College-style ratification system.
“Our goal was to achieve fair contracts that work for IATSE members in television and film — that address quality-of-life issues and conditions on the job like rest and meal breaks,” Matthew Loeb, the union’s president, said in a statement. “We met our objectives for this round of bargaining and built a strong foundation for future agreements.”
IATSE represents “below-the-line” crew members who don’t have famous names but are essential to making films and TV shows, including editors, camera technicians, makeup artists and script coordinators. The workers made headlines in October when they authorized union leadership to declare a strike if the studios wouldn’t meet their demands at the bargaining table.
The pressure resulted in a tentative agreementIATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reached an agreement on Oct. 16. It included increased streaming content pay rates and wage hikes for those at the lowest end of the spectrum. The new language was also intended to prevent film crews having to work extremely long hours.
Many workers were disappointed that the agreement did not address their concerns. With 14-hour days common in the industry, many hoped to see stronger rules on “turnarounds” ― the amount of time workers have off between shifts ― as well bigger across-the-board raises than the 3% annual pay bumps in the contract. They also wanted to see an increase in the “residuals” they receive for work on streaming content to support their health and pension funds.
“Several workers told HuffPost in the runup to ratification that they intended to vote ‘no’ but believed the final tally would be close.”
The film and TV workers are covered by two contracts: the Hollywood “basic” agreement, which covers 40,000 workers mostly in Los Angeles, and the “area standards” agreement, which covers 20,000 workers outside Los Angeles, in satellite film hubs like Albuquerque and Atlanta.
Under the union’s ratification system, each local union covered by a contract gets a number of delegate votes based on its size. Members cast ballots in a winner-take-all vote within each local, with all of a local’s delegate votes going to either the “yes” or “no” column. The contract is ratified if a majority vote of delegate voters supports it. It is the U.S. Electoral College but each local union is a state.
IATSE reports that the base agreement was passed by the delegate count at 256 to 188 yes, and the area standards with 103 to 94 yes.
But the “popular” vote among members was much closer on both counts. The contract was rejected by members who were bound to the base agreement, with 49.6% saying yes and 50.4% disagreeing. Members who were part of the agreement on area standards voted for it 52% to 48% yes.
According to the union, 72% of eligible members cast their ballots.
Several workers told HuffPost in the runup to ratification that they intended to vote “no” but believed the final tally would be close, especially after their local unions held town hall meetings to walk members through the contract. Some workers wondered how they could improve the preliminary agreement they had with the studios, if it was rejected.
Loeb said Friday that the process was democratic “from start to finish, from preparation to ratification.”
“The vigorous debate, high turnout, and close election indicates we have an unprecedented movement-building opportunity to educate members on our collective bargaining process and drive more participation in our union long-term,” he said.
One IATSE member who spoke on condition of anonymity said Monday that the basic agreement passing on the delegate vote while losing on the popular vote was a “terrible” outcome, since many workers would inevitably feel the majority’s voices were not heard.
“Yikes,” the worker said in a text message.