IATSE Strike is Devastating for Netflix, But Won't Affect HBO

An authorization vote is looming as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) plans to strike against film and television production companies in protest at working conditions.

However, the union has made it clear that not all productions will be affected by the picket.

Talks have broken down between the IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and votes on industrial action are set to take place in early October.

The union has been attempting to secure a new agreement to improve working conditions for thousands of camera operators, costume designers, prop makers and other behind-the-scenes production workers—the people that Hollywood can't function without.

However, the strike will not affect premium cable right away—meaning HBO will not be affected, at least not yet.

This is because IATSE's current pay television agreement with HBO, Showtime and Starz is active until December 2022.

"If you are working on commercials or for HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, BET or another company that has a contract still in effect—you must keep working," IATSE told members, per Deadline. "You will not be a scab!"

Where does Netflix come into this? Well, streaming services, also called "New Media" by IATSE, had an uncertain future when they began to take off back in 2009.

Clapperboard
View of clapperboard on the set of "And Just Like That..." the follow up series to "Sex and the City" in SoHo on July 20, 2021 in New York City. James Devaney/GC Images/Getty

The role of streaming services has proved contentious in the negotiations between IATSE and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

At this time, the unions agreed to "greater flexibility" around employment contracts due to the uncertainty of the industry's new direction and that such flexibility would be "mutually beneficial."

"That is simply no longer the case," IATSE said in a statement on the changing media landscape. "And the benefits are no longer 'mutual.'"

Under the current contract, streaming platforms with fewer than 20 million subscribers pay lower wage rates. This discount was added back in 2009 but workers argue that the media landscape and the prolificacy of streamers means that it needs to be reviewed.

Ahead of the vote, IATSE members have canceled their streaming subscriptions in a message to the new media giants.

"It's purely grassroots, as a means of getting the attention of these streaming services," Terri Freedman, who works in craft services and is a member of IATSE Local 80 told Variety.

"The biggest place to affect a corporation is where their income lies."

Meanwhile, Max Schwartz, a studio electrical lighting technician with IATSE Local 728, explained the core of the problem.

"We work literally the same job across multiple contracts for different rates," Schwartz told Variety. "'New media' has us as low as $15 an hour for the same job I would be paid $45 an hour for. That just doesn't make sense."

Newsweek has contacted the IATSE and Netflix for further comment.