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The Next Labor Battle: IATSE and Teamsters to Begin Negotiations in Early March, Starting With Benefits

Hollywood’s top crew unions have announced that they will be bargaining their health and pension benefits together at the outset of their 2024 labor negotiations with studios and streamers.

IATSE and the Hollywood Basic Crafts coalition (which includes Teamsters Local 399) announced on Wednesday that they will jointly negotiate their Motion Picture Pension and Health Plan proposals with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers this year. Multiple sources have told The Hollywood Reporter that these talks will begin March 4, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Though the unions share health and pension plans, they haven’t come together to bargain changes to those plans since 1988, per the labor organizations. In recent years, the Teamsters and the Hollywood Basic Crafts have negotiated their benefits after IATSE bargained its Basic and Area Standards Agreements.

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Following these joint benefit talks in 2024, IATSE will continue with negotiations for its Basic Agreement, covering 13 Hollywood Locals, and its Area Standards Agreement, which governs tens of thousands of members working outside the L.A. and New York areas. The Teamsters Local 399 and the Hollywood Basic Crafts, which also includes the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 40, Laborers International Union of North America Local 724, United Association Plumbers Local 78 and Operating Plasterers & Cement Masons International Association Local 755, are expected to begin negotiating their separate agreements in June.

According to the unions, major priorities in the benefits talks will include boosting retirement accrual rates and “securing additional streaming-based funding mechanisms for the plans.” In their announcement, the unions acknowledged that various measures taken during 2023 to help crew members survive the writers’ and actors’ strikes had taken their toll on the health and pension plans, which are funded in part by residuals accrued from members working.

“Though the plans took a hit financially due to work stoppages prolonged by the employers in 2023 as well as the pandemic work stoppage in 2020, the trustees of the plan knew funds spent to ensure continuity of workers’ health and retirement benefits was money well spent,” IATSE vice president Michael Miller said in a statement. “It’s important for our unions to be on the same page as we collaboratively negotiate for the plans not only because sustainable benefits is a shared priority of our memberships, but also because recent hardships have brought behind-the-scenes crews together in historic fashion.”

Teamsters Local 399 leader and Hollywood Basic Crafts chairperson Lindsay Dougherty added in a statement that “fighting alongside IATSE on shared MPIPHP benefits will not only support all Hollywood crewmembers, but also remind the employers that when they can’t divide us, they should fear us. Nothing moves without the crew.”

The crew unions’ negotiations constitute the next major labor battle for an industry that was buffeted in 2023 by two historic strikes from actors unionized with SAG-AFTRA and writers with the Writers Guild of America. In an appearance at a union leaders panel in January, IATSE international president Matt Loeb said that a crew strike is a potential option for the union in this year’s negotiations, depending on how they go. “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.

During that same panel, Teamsters motion picture division head Lindsay Dougherty added, “The studios can’t withstand another strike, let’s be clear about that.”

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