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Hollywood crew members take center stage as IATSE negotiations kick off

Christi Carras, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

LOS ANGELES — Thousands of Hollywood crew members and their supporters gathered Sunday in the crisp morning air and muddy fields at Encino's Woodley Park in a show of support ahead of contract negotiations that begin this week with the major film and TV studios.

Slogans such as "Fighting for living wages," and "Nothing moves without the crew" adorned dozens of tents representing everyone from cinematographers and costume designers to lighting technicians and video editors. Some demonstrators had just returned to work after last year's strikes by writers and actors, while others hadn't been employed since last summer.

"Every union in the entertainment industry is standing here together, and that has never happened before," said Matthew Loeb, international president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, on Sunday. "We stand here together to demand fairness, to demand a living wage ... for everybody who works in this business."

Sunday's rally, organized by IATSE, Teamsters and other unions representing more than 66,000 Hollywood crew members, underscored that the labor unrest that roiled the entertainment industry last year is not over.

After writers and actors secured historic gains by striking for nearly six months combined, camera operators, makeup artists, costumers, carpenters, animal trainers and others who work behind the scenes on film and TV sets are pursuing demands for improved pay and working conditions as their contracts with the major entertainment companies come up for renewal.

IATSE, Teamsters Local 399 and the Hollywood Basic Crafts — a coalition of guilds representing drivers, electrical workers, cement masons, plumbers and other laborers employed on film and TV sets — are all scheduled to enter contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Monday. Their current contracts with the studios are set to expire July 31.

 

Union leaders are looking to ride a wave of labor activism that has fostered a rare degree of solidarity between organizations that have clashed in the past.

For the first time in 36 years, IATSE, Teamsters and the Hollywood Basic Crafts will jointly bargain for their pension and health benefits, while negotiating the rest of their terms separately.

"The difficulties in our industry in the last few years — from the work stoppages last year to the pandemic work stoppages of 2020 — we came together in a way to weather those difficult times," said Vanessa Holtgrewe, assistant department director of motion picture and TV production at IATSE.

"What's different about going into our negotiations is that we've already established these relationships in a much more impactful and meaningful way in terms of labor solidarity," added Teamsters Local 399 leader Lindsay Dougherty. "It's our time."

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