A nationwide strike by Hollywood film and television crews was averted on Oct. 16, after the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union reached an agreement with studio producers on a new three-year contract.
The strike was planned amid disputes with studio producers about working conditions, pay, and schedules, with many members of the union claiming that working conditions were poor, workdays were long with few breaks, and hourly rates were below $18 per hour.
In a statement, IATSE said it had completed marathon negotiations with studios and entertainment companies on Oct. 16 to reach a three-year agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for The Basic and Videotape Agreements, affecting 40,000 film and television workers represented by 13 West Coast IATSE local unions.
The last-minute deal avoided a strike by thousands of off-screen workers that would have brought production on movies and television shows to a halt.
IATSE said in its statement that the proposed contract addresses key issues, such as reasonable rest periods, meal breaks, a living wage for those on the bottom of the pay scale, and significant increases in compensation to be paid by new media companies.
IATSE President Matthew Loeb called the tentative agreement a “Hollywood ending” to the lengthy negotiations between workers and studio producers.
“Our members stood firm. We are tough and united,” he said, stating that union members were prepared to go on strike until the issues were addressed.
Representatives for the AMPTP didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
The union stated on Oct. 4 that 90 percent of its members cast ballots and more than 98 percent of the votes returned were in favor of authorizing a strike, prompting fears of nationwide industry strikes.
At the time, actor and producer Octavia Spencer voiced support for IATSE’s demands, writing on Twitter: “I hope #AMPTP does the right thing and sits down again. They’re not asking for anything unreasonable.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also expressed her support for the union’s strike on Twitter, writing, “#Striketober coming in hot.”
AMPTP said in an early October statement that it was “committed to reaching an agreement that will keep the industry working” but said it would require both parties to show “a willingness to compromise and to explore new solutions,” citing the economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We went toe to toe with some of the richest and most powerful entertainment and tech companies in the world, and we have now reached an agreement with the AMPTP that meets our members’ needs,” Loeb said.
Industry workers had previously lamented having to work weekends and were fighting for weekends off. Under the terms of the new agreement, film and television workers would now have a minimum rest period of 54 hours over the weekend.
The tentative agreement will also see improved wages and working conditions for streaming; retroactive wage increases of 3 percent annually; daily rest periods of 10 hours without exclusions; the adoption of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday holiday added to the schedule.
The tentative agreement must still be approved by the workers, who will hold a ratification vote by casting ballots online, a process similar to that used to decide whether they would be willing to go on strike.
Mike Miller, vice president and motion picture director for IATSE, said the new agreement should serve as a model for other workers in the entertainment and tech industries, for workers employed by gaming companies, and for so-called gig workers, noting that both workers and employers will benefit from the new improvements.