05 October 2021

Behind-the-scenes Hollywood workers vote to authorise strike

05 October 2021

Film and television production in North America is at risk of coming to a standstill after behind-the-scenes workers overwhelmingly voted to authorise a strike.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees said on Monday that nearly 99% of registered members who participated, or 52,706 people, voted in support of a strike over the weekend.

It is the first time such action has been voted for in the organisation’s 128-year history.

At issue is a contract standstill over requests for more reasonable conditions for the craftspeople, technicians and labourers working for streaming companies like Netflix, Apple and Amazon, including better pay, reasonable rest periods, safer hours and guaranteed meal breaks.

If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer

The alliance’s president Matthew Loeb said: “I hope that the studios will see and understand the resolve of our members.

“The ball is in their court. If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer.”

The most recent three-year contract expired in July, leading to four months of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the group that represents studios and streamers in negotiations.

But on September 20, the day after streaming shows like The Crown, Ted Lasso and The Queen’s Gambit swept the Emmy Awards, conversations came to a halt.

Mr Loeb has said his goal is to reach an agreement, not to “have a dispute”, but noted the vote was about the “quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry”.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees has said it is “incomprehensible that the AMPTP, an ensemble that includes media mega-corporations collectively worth trillions of dollars, claims it cannot provide behind-the-scenes crews with basic human necessities like adequate sleep, meal breaks, and living wages”.

The union added its members worked through the coronavirus pandemic to ensure their business emerged intact.

The AMPTP said in a statement it remains committed to reaching an agreement that will keep the industry working, particularly since it is still recovering from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

It said: “A deal can be made at the bargaining table, but it will require both parties working together in good faith with a willingness to compromise and to explore new solutions to resolve the open issues.”

Many prominent names in Hollywood have voiced public support for the crews demands, including actor and producer Octavia Spencer who tweeted her support on Monday.

“I hope #AMPTP does the right thing and sits down again,” Spencer wrote. “They’re not asking for anything unreasonable.”

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