IATSE memo answers vital strike questions for members

(Member leadership answers questions for 60,000 workers)

According to an October 13th press release, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) International president Matthew Loeb announced that a nationwide strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) will begin Monday, October 18th, 2021, at 12:01am Pacific Time, if a deal isn’t struck with the organization by then.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees or IATSE (full name: International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada), is a labor union representing over 150,000 technicians, artisans and craftspersons in the entertainment industry, including live theatre, motion picture and television production, broadcast, and trade shows in the United States and Canada.

On September 21, IATSE called for a strike authorization vote, which could potentially result in a historical work stoppage in Hollywood. Upwards of 60,000 union members could walk off the job, which would mean shutting down TV and film production, not just in Los Angeles, but nationwide, affecting everything from pre-production to film editing.

IATSE outlined the working conditions they hope to improve in a statement on their website. These include:

“Excessively unsafe and harmful working hours.

Unlivable wages for the lowest-paid crafts.

Consistent failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks, between workdays, and on weekends.

Workers on certain ‘new media’ streaming projects get paid less, even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditionally released blockbusters.”

On October 3rd, Members from 13 local unions on the West Coast and 23 other locals around the country, totaling 60,000 workers, voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if needed. An estimated 90% of eligible voters voted and 98% of those voters voted in favor of striking.

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.

In that memo, IATSE asked and answered more than a dozen frequently asked questions (see them in PDF form provided by Deadline here).

Read the full FAQ below:


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 Makeup) 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)

Local 476 (Chicago) is under a separate contract.

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.

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

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.

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.  

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.

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. 

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.  

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.

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.  

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.   

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

Word of the strike has garnered many supporters for IATSE:

REELated: Which of your shows and movies will be affected should IATSE strike?

If IATSE does call a strike, it would be the first in the union’s 128-year history.