IATSE Says West Coast Local Contract Talks Should Last Through April

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees are back at the bargaining table for a new contract, as the below-the-line union has laid out the six-week schedule for West Coast locals to discuss specific issues with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Over the next six weeks, the 13 locals that operate under the Hollywood Basic Agreement will negotiate two at a time with the AMPTP. The first ones up will be the locals that have nationwide membership, starting with the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600) and the Art Directors Guild (Local 800), both of which began talks on Monday.

Later in the week, the Motion Picture Editors Guild (Local 700), which represents film editors and also has nationwide membership, will negotiate alongside Local 729, which represents set painters and sign writers. More locals will be scheduled to talk through April 26, after which IATSE will begin negotiations on the Area Standards Agreement, which covers productions outside of Hollywood.

“The work that the Locals did to prepare each of their Negotiating Committees, which included town hall meetings, member surveys, bargaining trainings and one-on-one conversations, is unprecedented. The process identified clear priorities and helped develop the proposals that the Locals’ members want addressed by the employers,” IATSE vice president Mike Miller said in a statement.

The stakes are high on this IATSE contract as both studios and crew members are coming out of a double strike in 2023 that saw the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA shut down production for a combined 191 days. The strike exhausted the financial reserves of many members, and production jobs have been slow to return, playing a factor in L.A. County’s unemployment rate rising to a two-year high of 5.4% in January.

IATSE, along with fellow below-the-line union Teamsters 399, have remained adamant publicly that a strike is not off the table, with both unions announcing they will not agree to an extension of their July 31 contract expiration date.

The good news, according to union insiders, is that the initial few days of talks with the AMPTP that began on March 5 were “off on the right foot,” as one source put it. While the sheer scale of the contract, which covers nearly the entire spectrum of below-the-line workers on productions, will take months to negotiate, there is early optimism that a deal can be reached with enough time for Teamsters 399 to conduct its talks before the end of July.

But a good start can still fall apart. During its initial talks last summer, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher released a video to members saying that talks had been “extremely productive” and expressed optimism about reaching a deal. But weeks later, as negotiations on streaming compensation fell apart and SAG-AFTRA agreed to a two-week extension of talks that led to no further actual negotiations, the actors’ guild announced a strike.

As the talks continue, IATSE has received support from various organizations and celebrities in Hollywood, most notably Jimmy Kimmel, who invited the IATSE members working on the Academy Awards on stage during his opening monologue.

“The reason we were able to make a deal is because of the people who rallied around and beside us,” Kimmel said at the start of the Oscars telecast. “And before we celebrate ourselves, let’s have a very well-deserved round of applause for the people who work behind the scenes: the teamsters, the truck drivers, sound engineers, gaffers, grips, all of the crew.”

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