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Nearing Historic Strike Vote, Thousands Of Hollywood Workers Could Walk Off Sets Nationwide

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Tens of thousands of behind-the-scenes entertainment workers in Hollywood are one step closer to a strike, a move that would carry massive implications for the industry as a whole.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) -- which represents Hollywood TV and film workers like editors, camera operators, set designers, grips, electricians, make-up artists and graphic artists across the U.S. and Canada – announced Monday that it will move forward with a strike authorization vote.

The IATSE has been bargaining for several months with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the group which represents all the major film and television companies.

"It is incomprehensible that the AMPTP, an ensemble that includes media mega-corporations collectively worth trillions of dollars, claims it cannot provide behind-the-scenes crews basic human necessities like adequate sleep, meal breaks and living wages," IATSE said in a statement Tuesday. "Worse, management does not appear to even recognize our core issues as problems that exist in the first place."

The IATSE has a membership of about 60,000, with an estimated 47,000 of those based in the L.A. area. A popular Instagram account has thousands of anonymous entries from workers describing extreme conditions, working 136 straight days, forgotten health insurance, and 15 hours without a meal break, often for wages barely topping $16 an hour.

"We need rest between our workdays, we need an actual meal during the day, and we need a weekend," said Marisa Shipley, an art department coordinator and vice-president of IATSE Local 871.

In a statement this week, the AMPTP claims it has met the IATSE's demands, including:

  • Paying a nearly $400 million pension and health plan deficit
  • Improvements in rest periods
  • Increases in wages and benefits
  • Increases in minimum rates for specific job categories

The AMPTP wrote in its statement:

"When we began negotiations with the IATSE months ago, we discussed the economic realities and the challenges facing the entertainment industry as we work to recover from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic."

For her part, Shipley said she doesn't buy that AMPTP companies are struggling.

"It's a little hard for me to believe that in the last year, when people turned to the arts and turned to their content for comfort, that they're really hurting," she said.

The advent of streaming services is also affecting the negotiations. IATSE members say they work longer for less money on streaming projects based on the premise that streaming is a new business model and not guaranteed to be financially viable.

"Streaming just swept the Emmys," Shipley argues. "If it wasn't clear before, that should make it clearer, streaming is not an experiment."

The AMPTP said in its statement that a strike would deliver a "death blow" to the industry, especially in L.A.

The vote for strike authorization needs 75% approval from IATSE members in order to pass, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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