Members of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees voted in favor of approving the strike, giving the union president the power to stop film and TV production across the country.
The vote passed with 98 percent support, and 90 percent of the vote
The vote comes after talks between the union representing the studios and the alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers were suspended. The unions have been negotiating a new deal since May, and are seeking to address long-term concerns, including the set time, wage scale and remnants, and the stability of pensions and health funds.
International President Matthew D. Loeb now has the capacity to send 20,000,000 workers to the picket line. First, however, the union is expected to hold further talks with AMPTP. The union believes that approval adds its leverage to the negotiations. The timing of further discussions remains unclear.
The threat of a strike comes because Hollywood has never been busy, especially on TV. The soundstages are at or near full capacity, and it has been difficult to find enough staff to continue shooting the production. This has led to fatigue and burnout, but has also encouraged high-demand union members.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a better time,” said John Lindley, president of the International Cinematographers Guild. “I’ve never seen such unity before.”
Union members have spoken of fatigue from decades of long production hours. In previous discussions, the studios have agreed to pay for hotel rooms for workers who do not think they can drive home safely. This time, the unions are demanding a 10-hour shift in shifts for all workers, as well as a 54-hour turnaround on the weekends. They are also seeking food fines, as a way to force production to stop for lunch.
The vote comes a year after the resumption of production around the world under the new Covid protection protocol. Many members say the closure of the epidemic forced film and TV workers to reconsider the horrific schedule they faced.
Kathy Repola, executive director of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, said: “Many of our members were working from home during the epidemic. “They got to have dinner with their family and friends, don’t miss so many private events because they didn’t have to travel in their long working hours. Now the idea of returning to a workplace has really created a contradiction in their mouths … it again leads to this insanity where there is no real balance between career and personal life.
The studios have pushed for the widespread use of “French hours”, where workers can get a short working day in exchange for food fines and breaks. The union rejected the idea, saying the days would not be short for many workers.
However, some members are keen to go on strike.
“No one is gong-ho about the strike,” said Joe Martinez, a member of the IATSE local of. “We’re more interested in getting some things fair.”
The nationwide strike will be the first in the union’s 128-year history.