Entertainment union calls for strike authorization vote that could shut down film, TV production

Thousands of entertainment union members are poised to hold a strike authorization vote amid a breakdown in contract negotiations.

The International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) said Monday its members are mobilizing to prepare for the nationwide vote after the union’s most recent proposal was rejected by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Some of the issues the IATSE demanded be addressed include what it called unsafe and harmful working hours, unlivable wages and lack of break time while on the job.

The strike could include the union’s 60,000 entertainment workers walking off movie and television sets in protest. They include stagehands, wardrobe and costume consultants, production technicians, hair and makeup artists, set designers and other behind-the-scenes professionals. 

“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 with basic human necessities like adequate sleep, meal breaks, and living wages,” the IATSE stated. “These issues are real for the workers in our industry and change is long overdue.”

AMPTP members include producers and their affiliated studios, such as Netflix, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures and Amazon. 

The Los Angeles Times reports that this move has come after four months of challenging negotiations. With the vote, IATSE members could be asked to vote on continuing negotiations between the group and producers, or have the union call a strike.

The vote could be held as soon as Oct. 1. Results will come in by Oct. 4.

The AMPTP told the Times in a statement that the entertainment industry has faced major financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and insists that it has “listened and addressed” many of the IATSE’s demands.

“In choosing to leave the bargaining table to seek a strike authorization vote, the IATSE leadership walked away from a generous comprehensive package,” the AMPTP told reporters. 

Many of the IATSE’s members operate in branches of the union, known as locals. Variety reports that for each local, 75 percent of voting members would need to vote in favor of the strike to actually walk off production sets. 

The IATSE has never gone on strike before. If the measure approved, IATSE International President Matthew Loeb would be able to call a strike again if negotiations between the groups continue to fail.

The strike authorization vote is only being held among U.S. members.