Hollywood prepares for a possible strike by 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers who say they can no longer earn a living wage, even if the tech companies in their own pockets have changed the economy of film and television production .
A strike by the “below the line” workers who drive cameras, build sets, do hair styling and other essential work will halt production in Hollywood and across the US. This would be the first strike of crew members since 1945, during the bloody “War for Warner Bros.”
In addition to better hours, salaries, and interruptions, members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) want a larger share of the major budget stream projects, such as Netflix, Apple, and Amazon. The union says an agreement in 2009 discounted streamers with less than 20 million subscribers to help the then-emerging industry. Now, they say, it’s time for the streamers to pay.
“Apple only won four Emmys this past weekend,” said IATSE spokesman Jonas Loeb. “This [streaming companies] is one of the largest companies on the planet. Provisions to help the industry get on its feet no longer make sense. ”
Negotiations between the IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers came to a standstill last week. The production group, which includes Netflix and Apple as well as the traditional studios, says it offers an ‘extended package’ that includes paying nearly $ 400 million to shortfall a pension and health plan.
The manufacturers say the deal is particularly fair, given the economic downturn of the Covid-19 pandemic that hit the box office, a claim the IATSE rejects, citing strong revenue during the pandemic.
“The position of the streaming services has only been strengthened by Covid and the amount of business they have done,” said Laura Isabel Serna, an associate professor of film and media studies at the University of Southern California. “People are still very attached to streaming – this is the new model.”
While streaming groups reported strong subscription growth during the pandemic, other parts of the film industry – particularly cinemas – were hit hard. IATSE members say they helped continue production during the pandemic, which often endangers their health and works long hours.
IATSE plans to hold a vote on the strike on Friday, with results expected early next week.
Professionals hope that a strong performance will strengthen their negotiating position, along with a campaign on social media in which screen stars such as Jane Fonda, Ben Stiller and Kerry Washington provided support. A general shortage of workers in the country could also be leverage, they say.
If there were a strike, it would be much bigger than the last strike in Hollywood in 2007-08, when 12,000 film and television screenwriters picked up for 14 weeks.