IATSE Members Are Fired Up — Can Their Leaders Deliver?

IATSE leadership got a big win on Oct. 4, when more than 98% of the rank and file voted to authorize a strike.

Having riled people up, the leaders now face pressure to deliver the goods. Within days of the vote, members were growing frustrated at the slow pace of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

On Facebook, some members called on IATSE President Matthew D. Loeb to order a nationwide strike, which would paralyze the film and TV industry from coast to coast. On Wednesday morning, Loeb set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 18.

Both sides are still at the table, and it remains possible they will reach a deal. But many members were anxious that the negotiators would settle for too little.

The membership has united over a call to make film production more humane. They want an end to 14-hour days, and an opportunity to see friends and have dinner with their families.

But a new contract will likely offer only a few tweaks at the margins. The union negotiators went into bargaining looking for 10-hour “turnarounds” — that is, the time between shifts — for all workers. By Oct. 7, it appeared that the studios were willing to make that concession.

But a 10-hour turnaround still means 14 hours of work, which is exactly what members don’t want. In fact, most members already get 10-hour turnarounds. Some will have a hard time understanding why they went to the brink of a strike to win something they already have.

“It would be a waste of this historic mandate to even consider a 10-hour turnaround,” says Chris Woodard, a member of Local 80, the grips union. “If a contract with a 10-hour turnaround is sent to the membership for ratification, it must be voted down as strongly as we voted to strike.”

The union leadership has sought to reassure members that it is taking a hard line in the bargaining room — and that a strike is a real possibility. Loeb said on Oct. 8 that the negotiations would play out over “days, not weeks.”

In an email to members, one business agent acknowledged their frustration. “We have to give them the time and opportunity to make a serious effort to respond to our demands,” he wrote.

Another wrote, “We think there’s still a path to a fair contract with no interruption of work, but the clock is ticking.”

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