IATSE Urges Members to ‘Stay United’ and Support New Contract

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The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees urged film and TV workers on Thursday to “stay united” and to support a new three-year agreement with the major studios when it comes up for a ratification vote.

IATSE leaders reached the deal on Oct. 16, averting a nationwide strike that would have been the first in the union’s 128-year history. But many members have reacted with anger and disappointment, saying the deal does not go far enough to restore work-life balance and curtail brutally long hours on set.

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In a memo to members of the 13 West Coast locals, the IATSE leadership acknowledged the dissenting voices, but also thanked “the thousands of members who are supporting this agreement.”

“To those of you opposed — we hear you, we see you, and we recognize we collectively still have work to do to change the culture of our industry,” the leadership wrote. “We ask you to stand with us as we move forward.”

Some members have complained that the union has not done more to spell out the full terms of the deal. The union locals have been holding town hall meetings over Zoom in an effort to answer members’ questions.

The contract will go to a ratification vote sometime in the next few weeks, though a precise date has not been set. Members will vote electronically. To be ratified, the deal must win a majority of delegates from the 13 locals, with each local’s delegates determined by a majority vote of the local membership.

In the memo, the leadership warned that rejecting the deal would weaken the union, which would serve the employers’ interests.

“Our future success will depend on our ability to stay united rather than being divided,” the union leadership wrote. “That only serves our employers. Let’s move forward together and take ownership in advocating for the long overdue cultural change needed in this industry. It doesn’t stop here, and in fact, it has just begun. We are committed to doing this work together. This contract is only one of the tools we have at our disposal. Ultimately our solidarity is more powerful than any words on paper could ever be.”

The union membership voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if a satisfactory agreement could not be reached. It is not entirely clear what would happen if the membership rejects the agreement, though leaders have said that the bargaining would go back to square one with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Many members have expressed frustration that the bargaining committee did not go into the talks with more aggressive demands, especially with regard to “turnarounds.” The tentative agreement provides 10 hours off between shifts for all workers, and 54-hour weekends, with some exceptions. Many of the members rallied around a call for “12 on, 12 off,” and were disappointed that the agreement still allows employers to schedule 14-hour days.

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