The new deal that the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees negotiated with film and TV producers includes a 62% pay increase for the lowest paid members of the below-the-line Hollywood workers’ union.
The lowest hourly wages for writer assistants, script coordinators, assistant production coordinators and art department coordinators — many of them in IATSE Local 871 — will increase from $16 per hour to $26 per hour over the next three years, a rep for IATSE told TheWrap. That will push their pay above the $19.35 hourly wage that MIT’s living wage site calculates as the living wage for a single resident in Los Angeles without children.
Members of Local 871 were also informed in a meeting on Sunday afternoon that the minimum hourly wage will jump up to $23.50 next year, increasing to $24.50 in 2023 and then to $26 in 2024, according to one member who attended.
Living wages were one of the core goals for the union heading into talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Early on in the organizing efforts, Local 871 was one of the most vocal divisions of the union in demanding serious change in Hollywood compensation structures.
In July, members of the local told TheWrap that many members of the local — the majority of whom are women — struggled to pay rent and cover expenses even with more than 10 years of experience in the entertainment industry. The IA_Stories Instagram page has featured stories of members who have had to live out of their cars even as they are working on productions because their pay has not kept up with rising rent rates in Los Angeles.
Raising minimums for these positions is critical to meeting Hollywood’s diversity goals, script coordinator Colby Bachiller told TheWrap, since the low pay shuts out many people of color and those without a financial safety net who seek to break into the industry. (Many writers assistants and art department coordinators go on to become writers, showrunners and production designers.)
“Even though Hollywood has been talking about how they want more diversity, they want more inclusivity, they want these stories, they failed to provide the one thing that can support the people that can provide these stories: a living wage,” Bachiller said. “As it is now, the only people who can enter this industry are people of privilege or people willing to take on a lot of debt.”
On Sunday, IATSE locals began holding meetings with members to share more details about the terms of the prospective new deal after an initial memo outlining the main deal points was received negatively by many IATSE members on social media. Members will vote on whether to ratify the contract several weeks from now after each local holds multiple town halls.
Over the weekend, IATSE President Matthew Loeb and the leaders of the 13 West Coast locals hailed the deal as a historic victory, saying that the members’ overwhelming approval of a strike authorization vote provided leverage to earn several key concessions from the AMPTP without having to make any concessions themselves.
Among the gains being touted are 3% annual increases in wages across the board, gains in compensation for streaming productions and mandatory 10-hour turnarounds for all film and TV productions along with 54-hour turnarounds for productions with five-day work weeks. More details will be revealed to members when the contract language for the agreement is finalized and the final draft of the agreement is released in the coming days.
“The employers moved on issues some thought would never be addressed. Several senior members of the bargaining committee have been fighting for improved turnaround and weekend rest for nearly three decades,” read a memo from leaders of the Art Directors Guild. “Hands down this is the strongest contract we have achieved in our history.”