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

One Perspective on IATSE’s New Contract

A film strike has been averted, but questions remain about whether or not IATSE members will ratify the deal.


Many in Hollywood are breathing a sigh of relief that the strike no one wanted has been averted. But there’s still plenty of concern that the IATSE negotiators may not have won enough concessions to suit the nearly 60,000 members of the  union, now looking over the fine points of the deal. Members are expected to vote on the contract over the next three to four weeks.

“It’s complicated,” said Linda Bass, a costume designer with three decades of experience and a member of Costume Design Guild Local 892. We talked to Bass, who is currently working on “Young Sheldon,” before the deal was reached and thought we’d check back in to get her take on the deal.

Initial news reports describe the deal as a “Hollywood Ending” where everyone’s a winner, but lately the news has been more negative, with some unions saying the negotiators let them down. But Bass doesn’t blame the negotiators.

“They had to poke the bear to get the strike authorization to get people involved,” explained Bass. Her own union, the Costume Guild, comprised mostly women, many of who have kids and just don’t have a lot of time to get involved in the contract discussions.  “The vote got everyone riled up, but by then it was a little late,” explained Bass.

But there were some victories. More money was pumped into the pension and health care funds and some of the
paid members got salary increases to $20 an hour from just barely above the federal minimum wage. They also got a 10-hour turnaround, which allows crew at least 10 hours off before they have to return to the set . And that’s the main win everyone is talking about, noted Bass.

“For my crew, if they have an 8 p.m. wrap, they will spend about an hour cleaning up and getting set up for the next day, so they are likely to get home by 9:30 p.m. or so, and then they have to report back to set at 6 a.m. the next day,” said Bass explaining how it would work. “But that’s just not a civil way to work, they should have a 12-hour turn around.”

IATSE has a lot of members and a lot power. Almost everything that’s shot in North America relies on their members, who include camera people, all the production staff including set builders, costume staff, grips, electricians, etc. but Bass thinks everyone woke up too late in the process to negotiate.

“The negotiators got what they asked for, but it probably wasn’t enough because people feel differently now,” said Bass.

While she understands why people are unhappy, she feels like it was a victory to keep what the union had, considering companies were pushing for some aggressive changes like getting rid of a set lunch hour. She also worries that if the contract isn’t ratified, producers could simply walk away and try to break the union all together.

“These are big businesses that don’t like unions,” said Bass, referring specifically to Amazon, which has refused to allow its workers to unionize. “They thought they gave a lot. Is it a victory that we kept them from taking things away? I guess that’s progress.”

Bass loves her job, which allowed her to raise her daughter as a single mom.

“I was able to raise her the way I want to raise her, but there have many sacrifices along the way, like time away from family, especially for camera crew,” said Bass. “But I have been privileged to do the work and I am lucky to be on a good show that shoots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I worry about younger people in this business.”

On a more positive note, Bass does think headway was made. She’d like to see the union start working on the new contract now so everyone knows what’s going on.

“If we are going to fight big business, we have to fight strategically,” said Bass.



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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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  1. Thank you for reporting on this Patty, it is very important to many of your readers and so many more beyond the Buzz’s reach.

    As an owner of an Independent (of a studio) Union Costume House, I have had lots of opportunities to talk with many costumers on various projects, all of whom talk with members of other Hollywood Locals . The overall feeling from the “behind the camera” workers is, much like Costume Designer Linda Bass stated in your article, very displeased with the nagotiated contract.

    It’s only 2 work days past the “Hollywood Ending” that some news outlets have reported and my company has been asked to take on even more work from multiple studio projects. We are all tired! And yet, I know of two people who have given notice today because their work schedules have compromizing their physical and mental health.

    PLEASE remember that a 10 hour turn-around means that a regular work day is 14 HOURS LONG!! And that’s 5 days a week, for as long as the production is shooting! Producers can have their crews work even longer hours by paying them more money for working BEYOND those 14 hours per day!

    This Guilded Age work ethic is quite literraly killing people, yet I’ve not heard of a single producer driving off the freeway to their death from their grueling 5th day 14 hour days in a row.

    • Very true and very distressing. This all reflects a class system where producers are seen as first tier employees while the crews are second class.

      On rare occasions, crews are allowed to invest in the film project making them partners in the production. But the overall perception of crews as hired hands as opposed to artists and crafts people is what determines their treatment.

      It has cost myself and friends a bunch of birthday parties, PTA meetings, and even doctor appointments. It shouldn’t be this way despite the nature of the work.

      Now, there is a groundswell of resistance. Union leaders are doing their best to suppress the descent in the ranks but they are too late. The momentum is here and moving quickly. If the contract is not ratified, it will catapult IATSE into unknown territory. This has never happened before. It will have a ripple effect across the country possibly shutting down movie production.

      In the end, the workers will prevail. They will have less money in the beginning but the payoff will be a better quality of life on the set.


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