Over the last few months, the International Alliance Of Theatrical Stage Employees (the IATSE, the union that covers entertainment industry production crews) has been fighting the Alliance Of Motion Picture And Television Producers (the AMPTP, which is not a trade union but an association that works with the TV networks, movie studios, and production companies on issues with the unions) over what the IATSE says is a series of unfair conditions in their work—including unsafe working hours, general low wages, a refusal to allow for time to eat or sleep, and specifically low compensation for work on streaming shows.
In October, we reported that the IATSE was on the verge of a strike over these conditions, which would’ve effectively shut down the entertainment industry (and potentially literally shut down the entertainment industry, if a strike call had been interpreted by union members as an industry-wide thing and not just applicable to those impacted by the specific contracts being negotiated).
But now, with only hours left to go on the clock, the IATSE and AMPTP have come to an agreement that IATSE boss Matthew Loeb considers a “Hollywood ending” to the saga. The specific details of the deal haven’t been revealed yet, but a Los Angeles Times story says it “improves wages and working conditions for streaming productions, provides a retroactive wage increase of three percent annually, and higher penalties for companies that don’t provide meal breaks.” It also has “unspecified diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives,” which are always the most effective kind of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
As the LA Times story explains, one of the reasons this seems to have worked out is that the TV networks involved were anxious about going through another major shutdown, since losing the IATSE would potentially leave them unable to do anything but schedule reruns (since camera operators are in the union). Meanwhile, a streaming platform like Netflix could just lean on its existing library of content while a strike went on without being especially inconvenienced—combine that with IATSE claims about members being exploited by streamers, and they seem like they’d be especially unpopular in all of this.
So it’s all good. “Hollywood ending” and all that. But actually no: According to IndieWire, a number of IATSE members are decidedly unhappy with this current agreement, believing it doesn’t go far enough in addressing issues like the length of a workday or getting residuals from streamers. On the IA Stories Instagram page—which has become a virtual meeting point where union members can talk about how they’ve been mistreated—frustrated IATSE members are calling for the deal to be rejected and questioning the page’s anonymous moderators in their apparent refusal to acknowledge the backlash.
If this deal is rejected, the IATSE will have to resume negotiations with the AMPTP, which would potentially put a strike back on the table. Either way, the story isn’t quite over yet.