IATSE Puts Strike Authorization Vote On the Table As Negotiations Near

The major Hollywood crew union IATSE is planning on a potential strike authorization vote if deals on two major labor contracts are not reached around the time they expire on July 31.

The union indicated that it is factoring the possible vote into its negotiations strategy in new contract campaign websites for its upcoming Basic Agreement and Area Standards Agreement talks. Both websites present a timeline of events before and after negotiations begin on March 4 for the Basic Agreement (covering West Coast workers) and, after, for the Area Standards Agreement (applying to workers outside of New York and L.A. and projected to begin in late April). Around the July 31 expiration date for the two deals, which collectively apply to more than 60,000 industry workers, IATSE says it expects either a ratification vote for a tentative deal or a vote that will gauge members’ interest in a walkout, “depending on the status of negotiations.”

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“The Negotiating Committee is not interested in extending this agreement beyond the July 31 expiration. Depending on the status of negotiations around this time, there will either be a strike authorization vote, or a ratification vote,” the websites state.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers declined to comment. In a statement, an IATSE spokesperson said the launch of the two websites “represents the latest step that IATSE has taken to ensure that all members can be fully informed of the process and contingencies surrounding our upcoming negotiations.”

This posture represents a more aggressive tone than IATSE took when these two same contracts came up for negotiation in 2021. Those negotiations were extended several times, such that the union eventually reached a tentative agreement with management on its Basic Agreement on Oct. 16 and on its Area Standards Agreement on Oct. 26 after both deals were originally set to expire on July 31, 2021. That same year, more than 98 percent of voting IATSE members authorized a strike on Oct. 4, though union leaders never ended up calling one.

“Our Union is going into these negotiations UNITED and from a position of STRENGTH. We will be AGGRESSIVE at the table and do what it takes to win a contract that IATSE members expect, deserve, and ratify,” the IATSE websites state.

This tone is in part to be expected, given that the crew union’s negotiations are arriving not long after the industry’s writers and actors shut down a significant amount of active production with their months-long work stoppages in 2023. IATSE will be looking to make comparable gains to those groups in this round of talks and improve the financial situation for members who are still hurting from the work stoppages, and a legitimate strike threat traditionally improves labor groups’ leverage at the bargaining table.

And with its new websites, IATSE is also clearly attempting to provide more information on the bargaining process than it did in 2021, a year when grassroots momentum to address working conditions grew over the course of the prolonged negotiations and many members were left unhappy with the final deals their leaders reached. That year, the Basic Agreement was ratified thanks to the union’s delegate system but rejected in the popular vote. The Area Standards Agreement was also ratified by delegates and passed narrowly in the popular vote. This year, IATSE is promising that its negotiating committees will “regularly update membership after bargaining sessions and developments at the table.”

The union has also been signaling that this year will be different for some time. Several of its Locals have formed contract captain teams, responsible for passing on negotiations information to members and communicating member sentiment to leaders, which have not existed in recent negotiations cycles for the union. And IATSE international president Matthew Loeb very publicly did not discount the possibility of a strike in a panel appearance on Jan. 9. “Nothing is off the table, and we’re not going to give up our strength and our ability because they [studios] think they sapped us and everybody’s bank account got sapped because they were unreasonable for months and months,” he said. “My folks aren’t going to just settle.”

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