IATSE is continuing to prepare its members for a possible strike or a lockout if it can’t make a deal with management’s AMPTP for a new film and TV contract. The union’s current contract was set to expire on July 31, but was extended through Sept. 10, the union says, “in an effort to exhaust every opportunity to make a deal.”
On Wednesday, IATSE president Matthew Loeb said that negotiations have “reached a critical juncture,” noting that, “we are united in demanding more humane working conditions across the industry, including reasonable rest during and between workdays and on the weekend, equitable pay on streaming productions, and a livable wage floor.” On Thursday, he told members that the union was awaiting a response from the AMPTP to the union’s latest package of contract proposals as it continues its “mobilization” for a possible strike.
As part of that “mobilization,” the union has posted 13 frequently asked questions and answers about what the expect in the coming days.
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1. Now that the Basic Agreement has expired what happens next?
• Work can and will continue under the expired agreement until further notice.
• The wages and working conditions will remain unchanged (“status quo”) while work continues.
• You should continue working and seeking new work.
2. Then what?
• The employers can declare impasse and impose their last, best-and-final offer.
• The Bargaining Committee could send that offer to their members to vote on,
• The IATSE can hold a strike authorization vote.
• If strike authorization is granted, the IATSE could call for that strike.
• The employers could impose a lock out.
3. What is the difference between a strike and a lock out?
A strike is the unions’ members withholding their services until they get an acceptable contract. A lockout is a decision by the employers to bar union members from working until they agree to certain terms.
4. How does a strike authorization happen? Do we vote?
The members of each Local vote independently to authorize a strike, not to call a strike.
All thirteen West Coast Studio Locals will hold a secret ballot vote simultaneously.
The vote will be conducted electronically by a balloting service through e-mail, so make sure your local has your current e-mail address.
Members in good standing who have been members for at least six months are eligible to vote, subject to each local’s existing practices for Basic Agreement ratification.
For any Local to pass a strike authorization, at least 75% of those voting must vote “Yes” in support of a strike authorization. Just like in the Basic Agreement ratification process, a Local’s delegate votes will reflect the members’ votes. So, a local with 1,000 votes returned would need 750 “Yes” votes in order to support the strike authorization. If the local does not reach that threshold, all that local’s delegate votes would be counted as “No”. A simple majority of the delegate votes in the bargaining unit determines the outcome.
A strike authorization does not mean there will be a strike. It authorizes the IATSE President to call a strike if it is necessary.
5. Can I collect unemployment while I’m withholding services?
This is largely a function of state law. In California, the answer is “no.” Striking workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits in California. In New York State, Locals 600, 700, and 800 (which are national Locals) can apply for unemployment benefits after 14 days; after 30 days in New Jersey. In addition, members who are already collecting unemployment benefits may continue to be eligible. If the employers impose a lock out, members may be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.
6. Are we allowed to continue work under any of the other contracts?
Contracts not affiliated with or attached to the Basic Agreement remain in full force and effect such as Sports Broadcasting, Low Budget Theatrical, Pay Television (HBO, Showtime, Starz), and Commercial Agreements. The Videotape Agreement is being negotiated with the Basic Agreement but does not expire until the end of September. For other productions or facilities, check with your Local.
7. Will our dues be reduced or waived because of the strike?
Each Local’s elected leaders will make that decision in compliance with their governing documents as they did during the pandemic.
8. What happens if I am on location when the strike begins?
Your employer is still legally required to arrange and pay for you and your equipment to return home. You will need to take the return trip offer as they will not be required to continue housing you if you refuse the offer. If you have a lease or other ongoing obligations, contact your Local.
9. If there is a strike, which locals will be on strike?
The 13 West Coast Studio Locals – three of which are national (Locals 600, 700 and 800) will all be on strike.
Locals 44, 80, 600, 695, 700, 705, 706, 728, 729, 800, 871, 884, 892,
10. What happens with my health insurance?
The MPI Plans are structured so that participants are earning future benefits or banked hours with current work. Health care eligibility, however, is based on hours worked and hours banked – both of which would be impacted at some point if you are not working.
11. Will I be expected to walk a picket line?
Yes. Every member will be called upon to take action to ensure the strike is successful.
12. What if a member crosses the picket line?
Members who undermine the strike by performing struck work will be subject to internal union discipline and may be brought up on charges related to strike breaking.
13. What if they hire strike replacements?
While this is a possibility, it is unlikely the employers can replace tens of thousands of the most talented and skilled craftspeople throughout the United States.
What can you do?
• Make sure your local has your current contact information, especially your cell phone number and e-mail address.
• Make sure you are in good standing so you can participate in important votes.
• Keep checking and reading communications from your Local and the International.
• Volunteer for the ‘Get Out The Vote’ efforts for any strike vote.
• Talk to every IA crew member you know to engage them in this fight!
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