IATSE Strike Wouldn’t Hit HBO, Showtime, BET & Starz Shows: “You Won’t Be A Scab”, Union Tells Members


EXCLUSIVE: As tensions rise over a possible crippling IATSE strike against film and television production companies and an authorization vote looms, the union is making it crystal clear to members that not all productions would come to a stop if the picket lines go up.

As talks stalled on a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the below-the-line union explained in a comprehensive presentation to various locals this week that a strike wouldn’t hit premium cable, at least not right away.

“If you are working on commercials or for HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, BET or another company that has a contract still in effect – you must keep working,” IATSE informed its members. “You will not be a scab!”

IATSE’s current pay television agreement with HBO, Showtime and Starz doesn’t expire until December 31, 2022.

While network shows and the likes of Netflix are under the now-expired Hollywood Basic Agreement and would go dark pretty soon after the union called a strike, the pay TV, music video, one-off single production, low-budget theatrical and AICP commercials agreements remain in place.

The low-budget theatrical deal expires the same day as the pay TV contract, and the agreement with the Association of Independent Commercial Producers runs through September 30, 2022.

The Basic Agreement ended on July 31, with the contract extended until September 10 as sit-downs with the AMPTP continued. After some back and forth of proposals, with IATSE emphasizing issues including reasonable rest, a living wage, sustainable benefits, changes to “not-so-new-media” and “diversity, equity and inclusion” like making MLK Day a holiday for Hollywood workers, talks sputtered to a close in recent days with the two sides apparently fair apart and the union now looking for the all-important strike authorization vote.

A vote and stance that has led to some uncertainty among some members.

“The HBU (Hollywood Bargaining Unit) is aware that this might cause confusion and unwarranted stress,” IATSE said in addressing its members’ understandable concerns that they will be seen as defying their own union if they show up for work on premium cable shows or commercials that aren’t being struck. “We are working on strategies to address this very situation.”

Still, with more blunt language to members working under the Pay TV Agreements or not, IATSE added: “But we need you to vote ‘Yes’ to authorize a strike for the Basic Agreement.”

Requiring a 75% approval from those who vote, the union strike-authorization balloting will begin October 1 and run through 8:59 p.m. PT on October 3, as Deadline reported this week.

To put it very bluntly: Things are about to go to DefCon 2.

Earlier this week, negotiations with the AMPTP “ground to a halt,” to quote a September 21 letter from IATSE president Matthew Loeb, with the producers and studios reps planting a flag with their most recent offer and going no further. Amid much hand-wringing and strong posturing, the two sides seemingly are deadlocked over terms for both a new Hollywood Basic Agreement (covering 13 West Coast studio locals) and the Area Standards Agreement (which covers 23 locals outside L.A.).

Additionally, against the backdrop of the strike authorization vote, IATSE is asking its members to sign a petition demanding that the AMPTP address their concerns.

The petition (read it here), which the union presented to members within the past week and intends to hand over to the AMPTP soon, states:

“We the undersigned demand that The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers make a fair deal with IATSE film and television workers by addressing grievous problems including:
1. Excessively unsafe and harmful working hours.
2. Unlivable wages for the lowest-paid crafts.
3. Consistent failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks, between workdays, and on weekends.
4. Workers on certain “new media” streaming projects get paid less, even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters.

In a video message to his members urging a “yes” vote on strike authorization, John Lindley, president of the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, said: “We still want to deal. That’s our goal. And the best way to get a deal is to have a strong strike authorization vote. We can avoid a strike if we have that.”

Even as the union is threatening a possible strike on two fronts over the already expired contracts, several other deals will be lapsing soon that could impact many other producers.

• IATSE’s Videotape Agreement expires September 30
• The extension of Teamsters Local 399’s current contract expires October 15
• IATSE’s New York Studio Mechanics Local 52 Agreement expires October 31
• IATSE’s USA 829 Art Directors contract also expires October 31

Still, with all the dark labor clouds swirling about, IATSE’s presentations to members make one point extremely explicit: “A STRIKE IS THE ABSOLUTE LAST OPTION!”

The next week or so will reveal if that is an option that truly is on the table.

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