Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

IATSE Union Strike Could Affect Thousands

Film crew striking the set on Rossmore Avenue.

On Monday members of The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) voted to approve a possible strike action.  The union tweeted on Monday that “IATSE Members in TV and Film Production Voted to Authorize the first nationwide industry strike in our 128-year history,” and said “98.68% voted yes, and voter turnout among eligible members was nearly 90%.”

If it happens, a strike could have a significant impact on our local economy. Despite that, there’s a lot of support for the union’s effort.

Hancock Park resident,  actor, and member of the Screen Actors Guild Billy Petersen told the Buzz that he fully supports the efforts of IATSE to improve working conditions and compensation for thousands of “below the line” crew on film and television production sets.

This strike covers “everybody that makes the shows work,” explained Petersen. “As a SAG member, our lives depend on IATSE. It’s all the makeup, costume, prop and all the post production, special effects, camera, crew, essentially everyone we count on to get us through a show and make it look like something.”

At issue are working conditions which Petersen described as unfair and dangerous. It’s not unusual for crew members to be working 8-10 hour schedules without a break for lunch and only a 9 hour turn-around time before their next shift, so they barely have enough time to get home and sleep a few hours before they have to report back to the set. One  member of the crew on Petersen’s  show flipped his car because he fell asleep driving home.

“It’s like you are constantly jet lagged and you can’t catch up,” explained Petersen.

Also at issue is compensation and pension funding. Local costume designer Linda Bass, who often works an 14-hour days on a set, told the Buzz that 18 years ago, the union agreed to reduce the minimum wage for crew on shows for streaming platforms because it was a new and untested media.  But now it’s time to increase pay and the amount that’s funding retirements and pensions, she said. Streaming services are very successful financially and it’s time to pay the workers who produce the shows.

“No one wants  a strike, but negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers had come to a standstill,” said Bass.

IATSE president Matthew Loeb told the LA Times,

 “Our goal is to reach an agreement, not have a dispute. We got to this point by repeatedly stressing our priorities and getting no movement. There was some movement, but not on our priority issues. We really have four points that are hanging [out] there, and a few other issues that I think will be dealt with, but you’re talking about meals and breaks during the day; rest periods between shifts and on the weekends; a living wage for the lowest-paid people; and some appropriate adjustments to new media [streaming] based on its maturity.

The rest periods and the quality of life issues, including the meals and the breaks, are clearly getting a lot of momentum, but I would not diminish the importance of the other issues I mentioned — they are all priorities.”

There is broad support among the other unions for the IATSE position, and everyone is hoping the negotiations will resume, because a strike could be devastating to the local economy and all the related industries.

“I applaud the strike action taken by IATSE,”Hancock Park resident and director Sheldon Larry told the Buzz. “I’m in full support of the stand, as is the entire Directors Guild of America. The working conditions and the attendant risks and detriment to the mental and physical well-being of film workers are the dirty little secrets of film production. No other unionized industry supports these all to common practices. This strike move will bring light and exposure to conditions and force the producers and studios to finally step up.”

Petersen thinks this could be bigger than the Writers Guild strike in 2007 because it’s about the fundamental fairness of making sure everyone makes a living wage and has their share of the profits earned by some of the country’s largest companies like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.

 “It’s huge, it’s unfair and I hate to see it,” said Petersen. “This is well worth fighting for, well worth stopping work for, they don’t have any choice anymore.”


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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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