A major Hollywood union has voted to ratify a pair of contracts to improve labor conditions for production workers — though narrowly — after previously voting to authorize a strike over stalled negotiations with major studios.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced today its members narrowly voted to ratify both the Basic Agreement and the Area Standards Agreement, three-year contracts that included provisions for things like meal times and breaks, increased base pay for the union’s lowest-paid members, and better terms for productions from streaming services. Both votes were extraordinarily close, and the vote around the Basic Agreement, in particular, is contentious.
IATSE uses an electoral college-like voting system (delegates are assigned to IATSE’s local unions based on their number of members). Delegate votes leaned yes for both contracts, and 52 percent of members voted in favor of the Area Standards Agreement (48 percent voted no). But the popular vote for the Basic Agreement shook out to 50.4 percent no to 49.6 percent yes.
The union said that 72 percent of its 63,209 members, or 45,402 members total, participated in the vote.
“Our goal was to achieve fair contracts that work for IATSE members in television and film—that address quality-of-life issues and conditions on the job like rest and meal breaks,” IATSE international president Matthew Loeb said in a statement. “We met our objectives for this round of bargaining and built a strong foundation for future agreements.”
It was a high-stakes vote for the union, which previously voted to authorize a strike when negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) — which represents studios like Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Disney, among others — came to a standstill. That strike was narrowly avoided in October after the parties reached agreements just days before the strike was scheduled to begin.
“From start to finish, from preparation to ratification, this has been a democratic process to win the very best contracts,” Loeb said. “The vigorous debate, high turnout, and close election, indicates we have an unprecedented movement-building opportunity to educate members on our collective bargaining process and drive more participation in our union long-term.”
While streaming was a small part of a much larger push for better labor protections for production workers, the negotiations highlighted how rapidly the industry has evolved amid the streaming wars. The union argued that streamers were underpaying for production work, and part of the contract terms include provisions for higher rates primarily based on the type of content being created.