It ain’t over yet.
Many in Hollywood have been breathing a big collective sigh of relief that IATSE and the studios, networks and streamers finally reached a tentative agreement this past weekend that narrowly staved off a workers’ strike that would have paralyzed production across Hollywood.
But, as we learned, not all IATSE members were thrilled with the new three-year contract, and many have taken to social media to denounce the deal and persuade members to vote no on its ratification. They say it didn’t go far enough to satisfy demands for improved working conditions, especially the long shifts crews are made to work (12 to 14 hours a day, or more), and did nothing to eradicate the stigma of asking for time off.
“It’s so common for your supervisors to look down on you if you ask for time off to spend with your family or take care of personal stuff,” best boy grip Bryce Milburn tells me. “During the work week, I only see my newborn daughter during the middle of the night when I’m changing her diaper. All I want from this deal with AMPTP is more time at home.”
IATSE member Chris Walters started a Change.org petition urging members to vote no on the ratification, which at press time had more than 2,200 signatures. “I think with absolute certainty we will achieve a no vote far above the 51% needed to turn this contract down,” says gaffer Walters, owner of grip and lighting company Illuminated Path Prods. His main concerns? “The lack of penalization on companies who don’t give us lunch breaks and forced calls on weekend turnarounds.” Echoing the sentiments of other dissatisfied members, he says, “This contract appears to lack teeth.” Walters is also upset that the proposed contract affords workers only a 3% pay increase, while the rate of inflation is nearly twice that.
Asked if his union went far enough in its demands, Walters says, “Our members feel disappointed that our leaders started negotiations with low demands and didn’t take advantage of the membership’s strong backing to dramatically change our work landscape.” He adds that while members are anxious to hear more details of the contract before making a judgment, based on the information released so far, “we are overwhelmingly unimpressed with the results, and a large percentage wants the leadership to start over and increase our demands with the authorization to strike still in place.”
I reached out to speak to IATSE officials, but they declined to be interviewed. The union has been holding virtual town halls with the locals in hopes of unifying its split membership.
IATSE international president Matthew Loeb has said the new deal represented a “happy ending,” but he seems to have missed all the plot twists coming his way.