60K Film and TV Workers May Strike Within Days as Industry Still Recovers From Pandemic

The union for film and television workers says its 60,000 members could go on strike Monday if a deal that meets demands for fair and safe working conditions has not been made, the Associated Press reported. A strike could hinder the industry's already strained recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially putting a hold on operations that have only recently resumed.

Matthew Loeb, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said that the strike would commence at 12:01 a.m. on Monday if they aren't able to ink a deal that sets new guidelines for rest and meal periods and pay for the lowest earners. Production for a wide range of film and television projects would be forced to come to a halt, both in Hollywood and beyond, if the union's members refuse to work.

Loeb said that a strike date had been set to place a new urgency on the negotiation process, the AP reported.

"Without an end date, we could keep talking forever," Loeb said in a statement. "Our members deserve to have their basic needs addressed now."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Film and TV Workers Strike Possible
The union for film and television workers says its 60,000 members could go on strike Monday if a deal that heeds demands for fair and safe working conditions has not been made. A poster advocating union solidarity hangs from a Costume Designers Guild office building, October 4 in Burbank, California. Chris Pizzello/AP Photo

"There are five whole days left to reach a deal," said Jarryd Gonzales, a publicist for the group representing the studios. "Studios will continue to negotiate in good faith in an effort to reach an agreement for a new contract that will keep the industry working."

As in other industries, many behind-the-scenes people started reevaluating their lives and the demands of their professions during the pandemic. And now that production is ramping up again, union leaders said the "catch-up" is resulting in worse working conditions.

"Folks have reported working conditions deteriorating and being aggravated," Jonas Loeb, IATSE's director of communication told the AP last week. "And these 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers that are under these contracts are really at a breaking point."

It would be the first nationwide strike in the 128-year history of IATSE, whose members include cinematographers, camera operators, set designers, carpenters, hair and makeup artists, animators and many others.

Union members said they are forced to work excessive hours and are not given reasonable rest via meal breaks and sufficient time off between shifts. Leaders said the lowest-paid crafts get unlivable wages. And streamers like Netflix, Apple and Amazon are allowed to pay even less under previous agreements that allowed them more flexibility when they were up-and-comers.

"We've continued to try and impress upon the employers the importance of our priorities, the fact that this is about human beings, and the working conditions are about dignity and health and safety at work," said Rebecca Rhine, national executive director of the Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600. "The health and safety issues, the unsafe hours, the not breaking for meals, those were the exception for many years in the industry, which is a tough industry. But what they've become is the norm."

The union reported on October 4 that its members had voted overwhelmingly to allow its president to authorize a strike, but negotiations, and hopes to avert a walkout, resumed after the vote.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios and other entertainment companies in negotiations, said its members value their crew members and were committed to avoiding a shutdown in a still-recovering industry.

"A strike is always difficult for everybody. Everybody suffers, it's hard, but I believe that our members have the will and the resolve to do what's necessary to be heard and to have their voices translated into actual change in the industry," Rhine said. "What we learned from the pandemic is the employers can change the way they do business if it's in their interest to do so."

IATSE International President Matt Loeb
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees's 60,000 workers may go on strike Monday after International President Matt Loeb set a deadline to reach a deal amid negotiations. Loeb speaks onstage at the 54th Annual ICG Publicists Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 24, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. Mathew Imaging/WireImage