We are less than one month away from contract negotiations beginning between IATSE (the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) and the studios. On Thursday, the below-the-line guild put the screws to the AMPTP by launching two new websites.
There is one for the Basic Agreement and another for the Area Standards Agreement (ASA); the ASA is for workers outside of New York and Los Angeles. Both sites make it clear the guild is “not interested” in extending talks past July 31, 2024, which is when the current contract is set to expire.
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If talks do not go well, IATSE may call for a strike authorization vote either before or around the July 31 deadline. On the other hand, the same timing could bring forth a ratification vote.
In 2021, the last time the Basic Agreement and ASA came up for negotiations, talks were extended several times beyond the same July 31 deadline; the guild didn’t reach an agreement with the AMPTP until October. IATSE went so far as to issue a strike authorization vote at the time, which members overwhelmingly approved. Leadership never used that power to call for a strike — they didn’t have to.
But when a deal was reached, guild members nearly sent leadership back to the negotiating table. It was that close. For the Basic Agreement, the popular vote of members was against ratification, but it passed due to the delegate vote. This time around though, IATSE is taking a more aggressive stance, and leadership is signaling they have no intention of dragging things out.
“Our Union is going into these negotiations UNITED and from a position of STRENGTH. We will be AGGRESSIVE at the table and do what it takes to win a contract that IATSE members expect, deserve, and ratify,” IATSE wrote on its strike websites.
Talks for the Basic Agreement will begin on March 4; ASA talks are expected to begin in April. This year, IATSE will joint negotiate alongside the teamsters and Hollywood Basic Crafts on pensions and health plans. Those are standard items, and once they are out of the way, the issues specific to each guild can take centerstage.
IATSE has tried to better communicate with its members after the internal turmoil of 2021. The guild has since set up a Contract Action Team (or CAT) whose job it is to share negotiations updates with members.
There is a real chance that many below-the-line crew workers are not willing — or able — to take another work stoppage. Those IATSE, the teamsters, and Basic Crafts were not on strike in 2023, they sure felt the impact of the writers and actors strikes. It would be hard to eat that twice in two years.
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