IATSE is talking tough in advance of next month’s resumption of negotiations with management’s Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for a new film and TV contract, with the union and the leaders of its 13 West Coast studio locals demanding livable wages, shorter workdays and sustainable benefits for their members, as well as an end to discounts that have long been afforded to so-called “New Media” productions.
The current contract had been set to expire on July 31 but was extended to allow for industrywide negotiations for a new set of return-to-work protocols.
“All members deserve wages that recognize the evolution of ‘(Not so) New Media,’” the 13 local leaders said in their latest statement about the contract talks, which are tentatively set to resume August 17. “The most profitable companies on the planet do not need cut rates that were negotiated to address a once emerging distribution method. Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook should all pay industry standard wages to the professionals who crew their productions.”
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None of those four streaming giants are currently signed to the union’s basic agreement with the AMPTP, but they work through companies that are signed to the union’s Basic Agreement. “Whether they’re signed or not, they work through it,” a union source said.
Brutally long workdays of 14 hours or more have long been the norm in Hollywood, but the leaders of the locals say that that has to stop. “Reasonable rest demands that the employers not treat our members like machines that can just work until they are broken and then be replaced,” they said. “Everyone needs and deserves a real and meaningful rest period between shifts to provide for a decent night’s sleep. We know that long and irregular hours can come at a cost, contributing to unhealthy outcomes and higher health costs. Everyone need and deserves enough time off to see their friends, partners and children and recharge for the next week. The employers’ failure to provide a meal break within a reasonable period of time during the workday is unconscionable. A break is for more than just getting something to eat and drink. It’s about having a moment to yourself and to get off your feet. What we have seen during the pandemic is the employers can and will make adjustments to the way they plan and schedule and still remain profitable. That same ability to adapt can be applied to creating a more safe, sane and healthy culture in our industry.”
To that end, the locals are demanding:
- A real and meaningful rest period between leaving and returning from work regardless of the craft or production.
- A weekend rest period that allows for actual rest and time to spend with family and friends.
- Effective penalties that truly discourage the systematic elimination of meal breaks and working straight into the weekends.
“The science is clear,” they said. “Long and irregular hours without adequate breaks and rest are unsafe. The negative impact on health and well-being is well documented and nobody should accept or defend 14-hour days without a break as an industry standard.”
The IATSE locals, they said, “are unified in their recognition that no other industry demands its employees work without bathroom, meal, or relaxation breaks day after day,” and in their understanding that “no other industry deprives its employees enough time to drive to and from work and get eight hours sleep every workday, week after week, after week.”
The local leaders say that their members are also “unified in their support for living wages,” and “that all members should be able to afford rent and food without worry…be able to raise a family without worry…and be able to live a decent and dignified life.”
Securing health and pension benefits is also a high priority. The IATSE locals “are unified in their support for sustainable benefits,” their leaders said. “No members should worry about how they will fix their broken and exhausted bodies. No members should worry about what will happen if their children become sick. All members deserve to retire with grace and dignity after giving the prime of their health and well-being to create profits for this industry.”
The pandemic, they said, “has affirmed that health and retirement benefits are the ultimate safety net for working families. Making sure those benefits remain stable and well-funded in the face of rampant health care inflation and an uncertain investment environment is critical.”
The local leaders, however, noted that they are also aware that “the employers just don’t want to spend their profits to provide the workers who generate those profits the living wages, reasonable rest, and sustainable benefits they deserve.”
Saying that “We Stand Together,” the statement was signed by:
Tobey Bays, business agent, Prop Local 44
Thom Davis, business agent, Grips Local 80
Rebecca Rhine, national executive director, Cinematographers Guild Local 600
Scott Bernard, business representative, Sound Local 695
Cathy Repola, national executive director, Editors Guild Local 700
Adam West, business representative, Costumers Local 705
Randy Sayer, business agent, Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild Local 706
Greg Reeves, business representative-secretary, Set Lighting Local 728
Robert D. Denne, business representative/secretary-treasurer, Set Painters Local 729
Chuck Parker, national executive director, Art Directors Guild Local 800
Patric Abaravich, business agent, Script Supervisors Local 871
Doug Boney, business agent, Studio Teachers Local 884
Richard Stanley, executive director, Costume Designers Guild Local 892