It will be a downright fiasco if the leadership of Hollywood’s studios, networks and streamers doesn’t do everything in its collective bargaining power to prevent the labor union representing camera operators, editors, production designers, grips and other workers from going out on strike.
Such a self-inflicted action — after what was a devastating year for the entire industry as it involuntarily navigated its way through an unforeseen pandemic — would be, well … unconscionable.
As one of my colleagues said to me, “This is a CEO moment,” a time when the influential heads of the most powerful media companies must step up and make sure the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers finds a way to satisfy IATSE’s understandable call for better working conditions and improved wages.
This week, after IATSE’s membership voted nearly unanimously (98.7% of those who cast ballots!) to authorize a walkout if the union’s demands aren’t met, the two sides returned to the negotiating table to try to hammer out a new three-year deal that would prevent a virtual shutdown of all film and television production.
Insiders on both sides of the fence are remaining hopeful that the parties can reach an agreement to avoid what would be a disastrous outcome for all involved.
At press time on Oct. 5, we reported that while the AMPTP had presented its latest proposal, no deal was yet in sight. Our crack labor reporter Gene Maddaus quoted one union official saying that the studios’ offer was “a big nothingburger,” meaning there was little substantive difference from what the group had previously proposed.
Maddaus believes the negotiations will likely continue through the end of the week.
“I think everybody is very optimistic and knows that a strike would be catastrophic, so they are going to do everything they can to avert that,” says Maddaus.
If IATSE does wind up striking, it would mark the first time that has happened in the union’s 128-year history. More than 52,000 of the union’s 60,000 members who were eligible to vote authorized a nationwide strike — an extraordinarily high percentage.
“What was really striking was the high turnout, at 90%, which is more than double the typical turnout for contract ratification votes,” says Maddaus. “It shows that the membership is rallying together on these quality-of-life issues.”
Even ahead of IATSE’s strike authorization vote, the heads of other trade unions — SAG-AFTRA, the WGA East, the DGA and the Teamsters — expressed solidarity. Moreover, many Hollywood celebrities have rallied behind the strike vote, including Cate Blanchett, Seth Rogen, Mindy Kaling, Kerry Washington, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Ben Stiller.
The general sentiment driving such support is that crew members who toil behind the scenes are totally deserving of improved working conditions.
And who in their right mind would want to deprive these hardworking people of that?