A major union in Hollywood has voted to ratify a few contracts to improve working conditions for production workers – albeit narrowly – after previously voting to approve a strike due to stalled negotiations with major studios.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced today that its members voted narrowly to ratify both the basic agreement and the area standard agreement, three-year contracts that included provisions such as meal times and breaks, increased base pay for the union’s lowest-paid members, and better terms for productions from streaming services. Both votes were extraordinarily close, and the vote on the Basic Agreement in particular is controversial.
IATSE uses an Electoral College-like voting system (delegates are assigned to IATSE local unions based on their number of members). The delegate’s votes voted in favor of both contracts, and 52 percent of members voted in favor of the Area Standards Agreement (48 percent voted no). But the referendum for the Basic Agreement shook out to 50.4 percent no to 49.6 percent yes.
The union said 72 percent of its 63,209 members, or 45,402 members in total, participated in the vote.
“Our goal was to obtain fair contracts that work for IATSE members in television and film – addressing quality of life issues and conditions at work such as rest and meal breaks,” IATSE International President Matthew Loeb said in a statement. “We reached our goals for this round of negotiations and built a strong foundation for future agreements.”
It was a major vote for the union, which had previously voted in favor of approving a strike when negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) – which include studios such as Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Disney – took place. stall. That strike was barely avoided in October, after the parties reached agreements a few days before the strike was to begin.
“From start to finish, from preparation to ratification, this has been a democratic process of winning the very best contracts,” Loeb said. “The heated debate, high turnout and close elections indicate that we have an unprecedented opportunity to build movements to educate members about our collective bargaining process and drive more participation in our union in the long run.”
While streaming was a small part of a much larger push for better job protection for production workers, the negotiations highlighted how quickly the industry has developed in the midst of the streaming wars. The union claimed that streamers paid too little for production work, and some of the contract terms include provisions for higher tariffs, primarily based on the type of content being created.