An Overwhelming Majority of IATSE Crew Members Voted to Authorize a Strike

More than 98 percent of the IATSE members who voted cast their ballots in favor of approving a nationwide walkout

After months of tension between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and behind-the-scenes Hollywood crew members who have been asking for updated contracts, members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees have voted to authorize a strike. The groundbreaking vote marks the first approval of a nationwide walkout in the union’s 128-year history.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, 90 percent of the nearly 60,000 eligible IATSE members voted in the election, and 98 percent of those who voted cast ballots in favor of authorizing a strike against the AMPTP, which is the trade association responsible for negotiating all industry-wide guild and union contracts, the IATSE announced Monday on Twitter.

“The members have spoken loud and clear,” IATSE president Matthew Loeb said in a news release. “This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry. 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.”

From October 1 to October 3, IATSE members voted via ballots that were emailed to them, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The IATSE called for the vote on September 20, after months of the AMPTP not meeting demands to update their expired contracts. The union’s members have been asking for higher pay, a larger cut of the profits from streaming productions, larger contributions to health and pension plans, and improved rest periods and meal breaks.

The purpose of the vote is to give Loeb the right to authorize a strike. If Loeb decides to call an official walkout, it could lead to the biggest industry demonstration among Hollywood production workers since World War II, the Los Angeles Times reports. A strike would halt a vast majority of TV and film production, not just in Los Angeles, but nationwide. (Some networks like HBO, Showtime, BET, and Starz, are covered under separate IATSE contracts, which remain in place, Entertainment Weekly reports.)

Loeb hasn’t indicated what the union’s next steps will be, but he made it clear that its up to AMPTP to make the next move.

“I hope that the studios will see and understand the resolve of our members,” Loeb said in a statement. “The ball is in their court. If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer.“

With news of the IATSE’s vote, the AMPTP responded Monday morning saying the association “remains committed to reaching an agreement that will keep the industry working,” a spokesperson said in a statement to Deadline.

The statement continues, “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. A deal can be made at the bargaining table, but it will require both parties working together in good faith with a willingness to compromise and to explore new solutions to resolve the open issues.”

News of the IATSE’s vote wasn’t much of a surprise to those who’ve been following the saga between the union and the AMPTP, as many celebrities and politicians have been declaring their support for the strike via social media over the last couple of weeks.

Jay Tucker, who is the executive director for the Center for Management of Enterprise in Media Entertainment and Sports at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, told NBC News last week that a nationwide walkout would be “problematic for everyone involved.”

“It would be tragic if a work stoppage disrupted the industry just as we are coming out of such a challenging year and a half,” Tucker said. “We are talking about halting production on a huge segment of TV and film projects—not just in Hollywood but across the country. I’m confident that all the key stakeholders understand this.”

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