The union, which represents 60,000 film and television teams, voted to ratify a new three-year contract with Hollywood studios that initially settled a labor dispute that threatened to disrupt productions across the country.
Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) barely agreed to a new contract negotiated by union leaders after months of controversial negotiations, the union said in a statement.
However, the vote was extremely tight: only 50.3% of the 60,000 members affected by the two contracts voted in favor of the agreement.
IATSE uses an electoral college-style system that assigns delegates to locals based on their membership. Members vote within their local union, and as soon as a pub gains a majority for ratification or rejection, all delegates’ votes are assigned to the majority result.
The total number of votes was 359 (56%) to 282 (44%) out of a total of 641 delegate votes from the 36 local unions. Notably, five out of 13 Hollywood residents voted no, underscoring the extent of the division within the powerful union.
The results were followed closely in Hollywood as IATSE supplies film and television crews for productions from Los Angeles to Atlanta and New York.
The approval limits an unusually tumultuous period for the IATSE, whose leaders received unprecedented approval from members last month to go on strike if they couldn’t get a new contract.
IATSE has traditionally avoided public confrontations with the big studios, but its members have become increasingly restless, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put pressure on crews to make up for lost time due to production stoppages due to the health crisis.
While voting to ratify the unions is usually a formality, this time ratification was not inevitable. IATSE members disagreed on some aspects of the agreement.
The contract contains several improvements, including the provision of 54 hours of guaranteed rest for the crews over a five-day week and wage increases in line with those of other unions. It also increases remuneration for the least-paid crafts and covers a $ 370 million deficit in IATSE’s health and retirement plans that faced higher costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, some members argued that the contract was insufficient to improve working conditions and curb long hours on the sets, something that has long been criticized among the crews.
Last week prop makers, sound engineers and other film set workers held a press conference in Hollywood to protest the new deal and call for improved working conditions.
As an example of the risks they face in their workplaces, they cited the death of camerawoman Halyna Hutchins, who was fatally wounded on the set of the western “Rust” by a prop gun from actor Alec Baldwin. The death rocked Hollywood and renewed calls for safer sets.
Before the Hutchins died, camera crews complained to producers about long hours and unsafe working conditions, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The new contract – which includes a 10-hour limit for the so-called turnaround times between film shoots – would allow members to continue to work 14-hour days, they noted. Critics also argued that the proposed 3% annual wage increase is below the current rate of inflation.
Another sticking point: while the agreement provides for wage increases for streaming companies, the balance that will help fund the union’s health and retirement plans has not been increased.
However, proponents of the plan said it was the best contract in the union’s history that achieved many of its long-held ambitions.
The union has been in talks with studios, represented by the Alliance of Film and TV Producers, since May. The alliance represents large studios such as Walt Disney, WarnerMedia, Netflix and Amazon Studios.
The current three-year contract expired on July 31 and was renewed to allow more time, but talks collapsed in September and the IATSE asked members to approve a nationwide strike for the first time in their history.
The vote was overseen by the New York election management service Honest Ballot.
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