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IATSE vs. AMPTP: Will There Be an Industry Strike

Jourdan Aldredge

The film and video production industry might be on the verge of a complete shutdown. Let’s discuss the ins and outs of why.

For those who work “outside” the mainstream film industry, you might not have heard of IATSE. It stands for the “International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada,” and is pretty much the largest union in the world covering every craft within film and television production.

This week, coming on the heels of a ramping-up battle between IATSE and AMPTP (the “Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers”: a trade association that represents over 350 TV and film companies and producers) along with other media conglomerates, it sounds like a strike between the two is on the verge.

But, what does that strike actually mean? (And, how did we get here to begin with?)

Let’s catch you up on everything going on.


IATSE vs. AMPTP

Founded over 125 years ago in 1893, IATSE (in short) is a labor union that represents over 140K+ technicians, artisans, and craftspeople in the film and entertainment industry. This includes individuals in motion pictures, television, and new media.

Overall, IATSE represents the vast majority of all behind-the-scenes work in crafts on all film and television productions. It’s also basically a core component of what makes the industry run. (Traditionally, everyone from the motion picture animator to the theater usher is included.)

Its relationship with the AMPTP, which itself was founded almost 100 years ago in 1924, has been off-and-on-strenuous over the years. The two are constantly in negotiations for wages, compensations, benefits, and other bargaining agreements.


The Current Situation

Since the start of the pandemic, and ramping up over the past few months and weeks, IATSE has been more vocal about the state of the industry. The pandemic caused productions to, at first, shut down, then subsequently start up on tighter schedules and with more safety precautions and restrictions—often without added budget or time allotted for crews.

The biggest concern for many in the union has to do with the time spent on set, long hours, and short turnarounds for professionals. These factors understandably create unsafe work environments for everyone.

In the most recent messaging from IATSE, they’ve called for a strike. This would be the largest labor shutdown in Hollywood since the writers’ strike almost fifteen years ago.

From IATSE directly:

Yesterday, after months of negotiating, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) announced it does not intend to make any counteroffer to our most recent proposals. So far, the AMPTP has failed to work with us on addressing the most grievous problems in their workplaces, including unsafe and harmful working hours, unlivable wages for the lowest-paid crafts, lack of reasonable rest during meal breaks, between workdays, and on weekends.

– IATSE

What Does This Mean for the Industry?

Film Crew
If IATSE goes on strike, many film and TV productions will be forced to shut down. Image via gnepphoto.

To many who live outside of Hollywood, Los Angeles, or New York, this might seem like a bit of an insider problem.However, it’s absolutely important to the industry overall. A strike could see some 60,000 IATSE members walk off the job, which could shut down the majority of film and television productions in the area.

The economic repercussions could be huge. Any stalled productions will further push back the majority of film releases and titles already delayed or cancelled due to the pandemic.

However, it’s important not to frame this from the producers’ prospective completely. IATSE is indeed doing its job of standing up for its members and their clearly unsafe working conditions. A strike authorization vote is expected to commence beginning on October 1st, 2021, with expected results announced on October 4th.

If the vote goes through, the strike will undoubtedly cause a major shutdown in the industry, while (at the same time) forcing the hands of producers and the media companies to meet the demands of IATSE, if they want to keep productions on-going and on schedule.


IATSE Stories

Over the last several weeks, the Instagram handle ia_stories has blown up in popularity because of the nature of the stories contributed to the account.

As the title suggests, it’s an Instagram account that publishes anonymous stories about issues that personally affect workers. Sometimes it’s hard to get an “on the ground” viewpoint from official union statements. So, if you’re still unsure as to how much the pressures of the industry is affecting key members of the crew, I highly implore to you follow, or at least check out, the stories published on the account.


For more industry news, updates, and trends, check out these articles:

Cover image via IATSE.