The tens of thousands of behind-the-scenes workers who create films and television shows have taken a significant step toward a massive strike, giving their union the green light to declare a work stoppage against the studios.
Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSE) voted 98.68% in favor of authorizing a strike during a vote this weekend, the union announced Monday. IATSE said nearly 90% of eligible members cast ballots.
The members do the unseen work of Hollywood ― they’re camera technicians, film editors, costume designers, production and script coordinators, etc. ― working for Warner Bros., Disney, Netflix, Amazon and other big studios.
The vote result does not guarantee that the 60,000 workers covered by the contracts will definitely go on strike. But it gives the union’s top leaders the power to call one at any time if they fail to make progress with the trade group representing the studios, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
If the union declared a strike, it would be the largest to hit the U.S. private sector since General Motors workers walked off the job in 2007.
Workers are demanding more recovery time from work, saying they’re burned out from 14-hour days with few breaks. They are also asking for wage increases, particularly for workers in the lowest-paying job categories. Part of the dispute revolves around the pay rates for streamed content. Studios can still pay workers less for “new media” projects, even though the industry has made a huge pivot toward streaming.
“The members have spoken loud and clear,” IATSE said on Twitter. “Our people have basic human needs like time for meal breaks, adequate sleep, and a weekend. For those at the bottom of the pay scale, they deserve nothing less than a living wage.”
As one camera technician recently told HuffPost, “People love what they do on a movie set, but we want a quality of life that’s worth living.”
The AMPTP said in a statement Monday that an agreement averting a strike “will require both parties working together in good faith.”
“We deeply value our IATSE crew members and are committed to working with them to avoid shutting down the industry at such a pivotal time, particularly since the industry is still recovering from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic,” AMPTP spokesperson Jarryd Gonzalez said.
But IATSE President Matthew Loeb said Friday that the producers had “not responded to our core priorities in any meaningful way.”
This story is developing and will be updated.