IATSE Sends Out Strike Instructions as Deadline Approaches

Below-the-line workers are being told to pack up their belongings on set and strike captains are receiving assignments

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 07: A driver displays their support for the IATSE union on October 07, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. The IATSE union which represents Hollywood’s film and television production crews voted to authorize a strike, calling for better working conditions and higher pay amid a surge in streaming demand. Negotiations are ongoing but a strike may be imminent. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

While talks continue between IATSE and Hollywood studios, the below-the-line workers union has sent out a memo to members instructing them to prepare for a strike if a deal is not made by midnight on Monday morning.

The memo, obtained by TheWrap, lists the IATSE locals that will be striking on Monday if a deal isn’t reached. While the 13 West Coast locals are the primary groups that are striking, three of those locals — the International Cinematographers Guild, the Motion Picture Editors Guild and the Art Directors Guild — are nationwide, effectively expanding the scope of the shutdown to almost all film and television projects across the U.S. and Canada.

Guild sources tell TheWrap that several locals are beginning to recruit strike captains, who will oversee picket shifts at the major Hollywood studios and other soundstage sites. Members will be assigned picket sites to report to where they will protest in four-hour shifts.

Prior to the deadline, IATSE members have been told to pack up all their personal belongings and turn in all timecards and paperwork for reimbursements on their last day of work prior to Monday. The union also says that studios are legally required to send workers home if their are part of an on-location shoot, whether the members are working in North America or overseas.

While there is no strike fund set up by the union, members have told TheWrap that talks are already underway for a grassroots mutual aid system should a strike take place. Earlier this month, some IATSE members raised over $70,000 to cover union dues for workers that fell behind during the pandemic so they could take part in the strike authorization vote, and the fundraising is continuing to allow members to vote on a tentative contract whenever IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) come to an agreement.

More specific instructions are expected to be sent out by each local over the weekend, particularly for postproduction workers who are currently working on projects at facilities that have a standing agreement with IATSE apart from the Hollywood Basic Agreement and Area Standards Agreement, which are currently being negotiated.

Read the full FAQ below:

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GO ON STRIKE?

  1. Which Locals will be on strike?

The 13 IATSE West Coast Studio Locals, three of which are national (Locals 600, 700 and 800), will all be on strike: Locals 44, 80, 600, 695, 700, 705, 706, 728, 729, 800, 871, 884, and 892. Studio Mechanics across the country, and in some areas Local 161 (Script Supervisors, Accountants and Production Coordinators), Local USA-829 (United Scenic Artists), and Local 798 (Hair and Make Up) will also be on strike.

Studio Mechanics Locals/Locals with Motion Picture and Television Jurisdiction
Local 7 (Denver-Boulder, CO)
Local 38 (Detroit-Pontiac-Mt. Clemens-Port Huron, MI)
Local 99 (State Of UT/Noise-Nampa-Caldwell-Twin Falls-Sun Valley, ID/Southern ID)
Local 122 (San Diego-Palm Springs-Palm Desert-Hemet-Banning-Elsinore/29 Palms, CA)
Local 209 (OH)
Local 477 (FL)
Local 478 (LA, Southern MS and Mobile, AL)
Local 479 (GA [with the exception of the City of Savannah] and AL [with the exception of the City of Mobile])
Local 480 (NM)
Local 481 (RI, ME, NH, VT and MA)
Local 484 (TX and OK)
Local 487 (Southern DE, MD, VA and Washington, D.C.)
Local 488 (Pacific Northwest)
Local 489 (Pittsburgh and in that area of PA within a fifty [50] mile radius of the City of Pittsburgh)
Local 490 (MN)
Local 491 (NC, SC and Savannah, GA)
Local 492 (TN and Northern MS)
Local 493 (St. Louis, MO)
Local 494 (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands)
Local 665 (State of HI)
Local 720 (Las Vegas, NV)
  1. Now that a date has been set for a strike, what happens next?

President Loeb has announced that the strike will begin on Monday, October 18th at 12:01 am PDT if we do not reach an agreement by then. Please check your email in the morning before you report to work to confirm that a strike has been called. You should expect to report to the picket line at the studio or where you are working when the strike begins.

If you are working at a practical location or working at a stage that is not on a studio lot, contact your Local and we will tell you where to report. Do not enter the workplace – remain outside on the picket line or, if there is no line, go to one of the staging locations. Make sure your contact information with your Local is up to date, so we can reach you if something changes.

  1. I heard that if we strike, some members may continue to work but others will not. Is that true?

A strike will impact all of us, but a few contracts will remain in force and are not subject to this dispute. Those include Sports Broadcasting, Low Budget Theatrical, Pay Television (HBO, Showtime, Starz), Commercial Agreements, Music Video Production Agreements, and certain independent agreements. Most of our work is not produced under those contracts. The Pay Television Agreement only covers product produced by pay cable companies for exhibition on their pay cable channels. Their productions for streaming services are covered under the Basic Agreement.

You must check with the Local about any job before you continue to perform or accept new work. If there is any concern about whether your agreement prevents you from respecting a picket line, please call your IA representative.  We will be coordinating closely about what work is not struck, and will be contacting the few members who are not required to strike in the event a strike is called.

In the event of a strike, can a member working under an unexpired contract choose to not work or not cross a picket line?

Generally speaking, yes.  All workers have the individual right to honor a lawful picket line. This is usually referred to as a sympathy strike. However, you may be disciplined or replaced and not have some of the same rehire rights as a member who left work on a struck show as part of a strike. You have to follow your conscience. Some collective bargaining agreements may restrict sympathy strikes. Please contact your Local if you are concerned about whether your agreement prevents you from respecting a picket line. Click here for further information: https://bit.ly/SympathyStrike

  1. Can I work non-union during a strike?

Struck work that is shifted to non-union employers remains subject to the strike. All members are required to call in their jobs prior to working. This requirement will be enforced. We will continue our efforts to organize work that is truly non-union.

  1. What happens if I am on location when the strike begins?

Your employer is still legally required to arrange and pay for you and your equipment to return home.  The employer is responsible for your housing and per diem until they make arrangements for you to leave for home.  This is true whether you are working in the United States or outside the country under the agreement. You will need to take the return trip offer as they will not be required to continue housing you if you refuse the offer. If your employer refuses to get you home or you have a lease or other ongoing obligations that your employment required, contact your Local (or agent) for guidance.

If you are approached about being “held” with the payment of hold fees, that is inconsistent with being on strike and you should insist on being sent home.  

  1. What do I need to do this week before the strike?

You should collect your personal tools and belongings (computers, iPads, printers, etc.) and take them home on your last day of work prior to the strike. Make sure your timecard is completed and turned in.  Reconcile and turn in all petty cash, mileage forms or other outstanding reimbursable expenses paperwork.

  1. Can I wrap my gear? What should I do with any personal equipment? Will I need to wrap the rental gear I have?

Yes, you can reclaim your own personal equipment or equipment that is sub-rented by you. You should plan to do so before leaving work on Friday, October 15 or at the end of your last day of employment prior to Monday, October 18 at 12:01 am PT. Once the strike begins, you should not be wrapping any rental gear or other employer equipment as that is solely part of your work that is struck work.

If you cannot get all your equipment out before the strike begins, you should secure it in the appropriate place such as your trailer.Confirm with production that your equipment will be secure. Make sure you have an inventory and photos of what you are leaving. If you need access to your equipment during the strike, contact your employer to make arrangements.You should not be expected to be paid to collect your equipment – you are on STRIKE. 

  1. What if I am working from home?

If you have equipment provided by your employer at home, you should notify them that they should find a way to retrieve it.  

  1. Will I be expected to walk a picket line or support the strike in some way?

Yes. Every member will be required to do work to ensure the strike is successful. We will have a system of assignments for picket duty. Your local will contact you. If you are a Strike Captain you will be assigned to pick up supplies and check on volunteers and the day’s assignment. Picketing will be broken up into three shifts of four (4) hours every day. More specific direction will be provided by your local before Monday. 

Outside of the Los Angeles area, supplies will be made available at the regional offices of the national locals and/or the offices of the Studio Mechanics Local in that area.

  1. What if a member crosses the picket line? What if a member continues to do struck work?

People who cross the picket line and do our work for a struck employer are scabs. Members who scab will be in violation of the IATSE Constitution and Bylaws and will be subject to discipline by their Local and the International. Locals and/or the International can impose fines (including all amounts earned by the member while scabbing), issue public censure, suspend and/or expel scabs.  

  1. What if a non-member crosses a picket line?

If you scab, you risk membership.  Non-members who scab jeopardize ever becoming members of this great Alliance.  Members who know of scab work being performed should report that immediately. If you become aware of struck work being performed, please immediately notify your Local.   

  1. Can employers hire replacements?

Employers may try. We ask that nobody scab and take our work, as improving our working conditions will improve them for members and non-members alike. It is unlikely the employers can replace tens of thousands of the most talented and skilled craftspeople throughout the United States.

  1. Do all of these same rules apply to other workers covered under the applicable agreements?

Yes. If a strike is called all covered workers would be required to withhold all services, regardless of whether they are working in person or remotely. They will be expected to participate in picketing or other strike activities. This would include studio publicists, story analysts, production and assistant production coordinators and other covered employees working out of offices or from their homes.

THE IMPACT OF STRIKE

  1. Can I collect unemployment while I’m withholding services?

This is largely a function of state law and almost all states prohibit striking workers from collecting unemployment insurance. In California and every other state except as noted below the answer is “no.” Striking workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits in California.

Members working under the IATSE Basic Agreement or Area Standards Agreement in New York State can apply for unemployment benefits after 14 days; after 30 days in New Jersey. In addition, members who are already collecting unemployment benefits may continue to be eligible to receive them.

If the employers impose a lock out, members may be eligible to apply for and receive unemployment benefits. If you have questions regarding unemployment insurance, please refer them to your local counsel.

  1. Will our dues be reduced or waived because of the strike?

Each Local’s elected leaders will make that decision in compliance with their governing documents as they did during the pandemic.

  1. Is there an IATSE or Local Strike Fund?

No there is not an IATSE Strike Fund, however, some Locals may have assistance available for eligible members. While there may be some limited help for those most in need, during a strike you can expect to go without pay. You would not be prohibited from taking work outside of the industry in a totally unrelated industry or area.

  1. Will I lose my health insurance?

The MPI Plans are structured so that participants are earning future benefits or banked hours with current work. Because of the various qualifying periods, you should check your MPI App for your particular details. Health care eligibility, however, is based upon hours worked and hours banked – both of which would be impacted at some point if you are not working for a long period.

We should not expect the employer trustees to support any accommodations for participants as they did during the COVID crisis.

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