“We are not machines”: Hollywood workers ready to strike for better conditions | American unions

At the start of the pandemic, Hollywood productions came to a screeching halt, leaving many workers out of work before things started to pick up with Covid-19 safety protocols in place.

Since then, Hollywood workers say they have worked long hours and endured increased workloads, including mind-boggling work due to social distancing; wearing and distributing personal protective equipment during long working days; and get tested regularly for Covid-19.

“We were working at breakneck speed, and that was something that was supposed to have changed. We were supposed to have the time we needed to work in that kind of environment, ”said Mike Loomer, a set designer in Hollywood and a member of Local 44 of the International Alliance of Theater Workers (IATSE).

“The only thing that changed was what we had to go through to make the product that they had to bring out for the public to see.”

Studios will calm down again in the United States as IATSE executives say its 60,000 members will go on strike starting at 12:01 pm PT Monday if a deal is not reached with employers. It would be the first national strike of this type since the creation of the IATSE 128 years ago.

Union members include cinematographers, cameramen, set designers, carpenters, hairdressers and makeup artists, animators and many other workers – and the action would disrupt productions in major industrial centers from Los Angeles to Atlanta and New York.

Loomer said workers in Hollywood have faced the added stress of worrying about contracting Covid-19 and seeing production days drop from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., working during meal breaks. early Saturday morning.

Union members to say these grueling hours have led to car accidents during commuting and caused or aggravated medical problems.

“This rise in production has made the work and life situation unbearable. We cannot work at this feverish pace. We are not machines. We are people who need a rest, ”Loomer said. “Working in Hollywood isn’t all about closing parties and red carpet events. It’s a factory job, where we move the factory and set it up every day before we do our shift. The amount of physical labor it takes to make an hour of television… that’s amazing for the average person.

Up to 60,000 IATSE members could go on strike in the coming weeks over long hours, unsafe conditions, lower wages at streaming companies and demand for better benefits. Photograph: Myung J Chun / Los Angeles Times / Rex / Shutterstock

Thousands of workers in America’s film and television industry fight to change these tough schedules and improve wages and benefits in negotiations for new union contracts, as entertainment streaming services ramp up production throughout the pandemic while reaping increased profits. Streaming services in the United States reported a 32% increase in subscriptions last year, and the U.S. home and entertainment market saw revenues increase by $ 30 billion in 2020, a 21% increase from 2019.

On October 4, thousands of film and television workers vote to authorize their union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Employees, to grant IATSE President Matthew Loeb the power to call a strike. Negotiations for a new three-year union contract with the Alliance of Film and Television Producers (AMPTP) have been underway since May.

It would be the biggest strike in the private sector since 74,000 General Motors workers went on strike in 2007. A work stoppage would end film and television production in the United States.

Other Hollywood unions, including Sag-Aftra and the Writers Guild of America, several famous actors and elected officials have publicly supported The IATSE demands for a new union contract just following the strike authorization vote.

The threat of a strike among Hollywood workers and other major labor groups in the United States has inspired calls unions to take advantage of the opportunity offered by collective action and the energy of these union actions.

Some 53,411 workers to throw during the strike authorization vote, with 98.68% of favorable votes. Thirty-six locals participated in the vote, including 13 locals on the West Coast and 26 locals in Georgia, Illinois, New Mexico and Louisiana, with all locals voting at least 96% in favor of the authorization to strike.

On Wednesday, Loeb said the union would continue to negotiate with producers on fundamental issues, such as reasonable rest periods, meal breaks and a living wage for those at the bottom of the pay scale. “However, the pace of the negotiations does not reflect any sense of urgency,” Loeb said. “Without an end date, we could go on talking forever. Our members deserve to have their basic needs met now. “

The union prepare pickets last weekend in anticipation of the strike.

According to union officials, there has been some movement in the negotiations, with strike action as the last option if they feel that employers refuse to go further on contractual priorities unless they are forced to do so.

Contract negotiations are In progress, and although no details have been publicly announced, the industry and unions are bracing for a possible stoppage of work if an agreement is not reached quickly.

“The product we make is much more valuable, yet the contracts haven’t changed. On the contrary, they went backwards, so our work is worth more, but we don’t get paid more, and that’s not fair, ”said Victor Bouzi, sound mixer and member of local 695 of IATSE in Hollywood.

He said that during the pandemic he had worked so hard that he often had nightmares about the job. But film industry workers are resisting these conditions as part of the labor movement’s broader struggle against multi-billion dollar companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Netflix, which are deeply entrenched in the film industry. entertainment.

“Workers are increasingly in a rush for their work as profits rise,” Bouzi added. “It’s the cost. Our sanity to make this product that we’re not fully paid for, and people are starting to understand that. “

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