Hollywood in turmoil as 150,000 backstage workers vote to go on strike: ‘It would shut everything down’

·3-min read
A film crew on location    (Winfred Evers/ Getty)
A film crew on location (Winfred Evers/ Getty)

Productions in Hollywood are under threat after backstage union workers voted unanimously to strike.

Over 90 per cent of those eligible to vote did so, with more than 98 per cent voting in support of strike action according to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

The union have been campaigning for some time for better working hours, safer conditions in the workplace and improved worker benefits.

In a statement, president of the IATSE Matthew Loeb said: “The members have spoken loud and clear. This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry. Our people have basic human needs like time for meal breaks, adequate sleep, and a weekend. For those at the bottom of the pay scale, they deserve nothing less than a living wage.”

The vote arrived after many months of failed negotiations between the IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents most of the major film and television production companies.

It is the first time in IATSE’s 128-year history that strike action has been authorised.

As the organisation represents over 150,000 backstage crew in the US and Canada, the strike would effectively shut down Hollywood. “I hope that the studios will see and understand the resolve of our members,” Loeb added. “The ball is in their court. If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer.”

The union’s contract with AMPTP ended on 31 July 2021 but was extended until 10 September 2021. The IATSE, according to CNBC, is calling “for a new three-year agreement that would give behind-the-scenes workers higher pay, meal breaks, improved contributions to health and pension plans” as well as “a bigger cut of profits from streaming productions,” as companies like Netflix and Amazon see huge increases in viewers.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared her solidarity with those who voted to strike. On Twitter, she wrote: “Full support and solidarity to @IATSE workers in their vote to authorise a strike. 90 per cent turnout with 98 per cent voting yes is an incredible accomplishment. It’s exactly the kind of mass-movement organising we need right now. May your example inspire others! Stay strong... we’re with you.”

Many have also compared the situation to the writers’ strike in Hollywood 14 years ago, which saw productions brought to an extended halt. If no resolution is found, productions throughout the industry are likely to shut down temporarily.

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