A new document, prepared by a group of Writers’ Assistants and Script Coordinators, is making the rounds of Writers’ Rooms. The subject matter is how to handle work by the IATSE Basic Agreement if the union goes on strike on Monday, October 18, 2021.
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.
The Writers’ Assistants and Script Coordinators are members of Local 871. As we reported yesterday, there are shows that are not covered under The Basic Agreement, mainly those covered by the Pay-TV Agreement (HBO, Showtime, STARZ), animation and Chicago Local 476.
The new memo outlines what is considered crossing the picket-line to perform union-covered work. The document uses the terms “strikebreakers” and “strikebreaking.”
“Many Writers’ Rooms are composed of a mix of employees who are members of the WGA, employees who are members of IATSE, and non-union employees. This document should not be considered an official and all-encompassing enumeration of the duties of a Writers’ Assistant and Script Coordinator,” the memo says.
The memo also addresses Showrunners who may pressure their employees to come to work. “Any Showrunner asking any of their employees to strikebreak will be considered to be acting in bad faith. As a general rule of thumb, if your Writers’ Assistant or Script Coordinator usually does a particular task, do not assign that task to someone else.“
- WRITERS’ ASSISTANT WORK:
· Any person, including but not limited to Writers’ PAs, Showrunner’s Assistants, Researchers, other Support Staff, Assistants, or Writers, who takes “room” notes regarding story as a replacement for the Writers’ Assistant and/or distributes the notes to other Writers and/or the Showrunner will be considered a strikebreaker.
· Writers may, of course, individually take their own notes as they would under normal circumstances for their own personal record without being considered strikebreaking. If those notes are shared or distributed by anyone among other staff, such action will be considered strikebreaking.
· Showrunner’s Assistants who have regularly had the responsibility of taking notes during Production/Studio/Network Notes Calls should continue to do so. Any reassignment of such note-taking from the Writers’ Assistant’s regular duties, or note-taking in regards to story breaking and writing, will be considered strikebreaking work.
2. SCRIPT COORDINATOR WORK:
· The Showrunner should be responsible for emailing (or otherwise transmitting) written materials to the Studio/Network/Streamer and any other non-IATSE Production Staff that may be in need of materials. No Support Staff should be asked to perform this task.
· Alternatively, the Showrunner could email materials to a Studio or Network or Streamer employee, for the Studio or Network or Streamer to handle distribution of such materials.
· Any person other than the Showrunner or the Studio/Network/Streamer employees who distributes scripts will be considered a strikebreaker.
· Any person working in the Writers’ Room other than the Showrunner who is assigned to upload and/or distribute scripts through various online production hubs, including but not limited to Scenechronize, Prodicle, DAX, or Doczilla, will be considered a strikebreaker.
· Any person other than the Showrunner who prepares a script for production (adds scene numbers, days, etc.) will be considered a strikebreaker.
· Any person other than the Showrunner who prepares revisions (advances the color of the draft and clears revisions) will be considered a strikebreaker.
· Any person other than the Showrunner or the credited Writer(s) of an episode who proofreads written material generated by a writing staff (story documents, outlines, drafts, revisions) will be considered a strikebreaker. Anyone other than the credited Writer(s) of an episode who is assigned by the Showrunner to proofread will be considered a strikebreaker.
· Any person other than the Showrunner or the credited Writer(s) of the episode that interacts with the Legal/Clearance Department to ensure that all aspects of the written script are legally cleared for shooting will be considered a strikebreaker.
· Any person other than the Showrunner or the credited Writer(s) of the episode that interacts with the Network’s or Streamer’s or other relevant entity’s Broadcast Standards and Practices or equivalent department to ensure that all aspects of the written script are approved for shooting will be considered a strikebreaker.
· All paperwork (including but not limited to WGA Worklists, NTWCs, Script Status Reports, Program Fees, Recurring Character Memos, and anything related to Episodic Writer Contracts and payment of the Story, First Draft and Final Draft steps of script fee payments) should be handled by the Studio or Network or Streamer or other relevant entity. Anyone else completing this paperwork will be considered a strikebreaker.
3. CONSEQUENCES OF STRIKEBREAKING:
· Strikebreakers who are members of IATSE will be brought up on charges via the process outlined in the Constitution and Bylaws of Local 871. Charges can result in monetary penalties, suspension, or a permanent ban from Local 871.
· Strikebreakers brought up on charges and expelled or banned from Local 871 will not be able to work in any Local 871-covered positions in the future.
· Strikebreakers may also be charged at the IA level and they may face expulsion from the IA.
· If Showrunner’s Assistants or any other non-union Writers’ Room Crafts are ever to be represented by Local 871 in the future, strikebreaking could jeopardize an individual’s future ability to join the union and work in any covered craft.
· If a strikebreaker is a member of the WGA, a written notification will be sent from Local 871 to the WGA that their member is performing our covered work.
· Strikebreakers will be discovered and evidence of such actions will be documented. Advancement in the workplace is most effectively made through collective action, as we know our colleagues in the WGA, DGA and SAG understand. Many people are sympathetic to the need for this strike should it occur. Please do not assume you will be protected just because your Showrunner(s), Studio, Network, Streamer(s), Producer(s), and/or Writer(s) asked you to do it and put you in this position. We are all responsible for our own actions.
4. NOTES ON STAFFED WRITERS:
· Some staffed Writers might have dual membership in IATSE Local 871 and the WGA. Writers performing Writers’ Assistant or Script Coordinator duties, regardless of whether or not they are also members of Local 871, are strikebreaking.
· Any Showrunner who promotes a Script Coordinator, Writers’ Assistant, Showrunner’s Assistant, or any other Assistant to Staff Writer for the purpose of having them continue or take on Script Coordinator and/or Writers’ Assistant work is asking said individual to be a strikebreaker.
5. NOTE ON SHOWRUNNERS’ ASSISTANTS, WRITERS’ PAS, RESEARCHERS, AND ANY OTHER SUPPORT STAFF WHO ARE MEMBERS OF LOCAL 871:
· Some Showrunners’ Assistants, Writers’ PAs, Researchers, and other Support Staff have previously worked as Writers’ Assistants or Script Coordinators (or other IATSE-covered jobs) and are members of Local 871 or another IATSE local, but are performing a job that is not currently covered by an IATSE contract. In such cases, those individuals should continue reporting to work as usual, but should not perform nor should they be asked to perform any work that could be considered strikebreaking, as outlined above.
6. REGARDING CURRENT WRITERS’ ASSISTANTS AND SCRIPT COORDINATORS:
· In preparation for a possible IATSE strike, all current Writers’ Assistants and Script Coordinators must ensure that all files (Room Notes, Outlines, Story Documents, Script Drafts, and any other pertinent Paperwork) are accessible to the Showrunner(s) as of Monday, October 18, 2021 at 12:01 AM PDT. This can be done via email, flash drive, Dropbox or other file sharing platform, or any other agreed upon method.
· If an IATSE strike occurs, communication regarding work materials and covered work must cease. Any Showrunner asking a Writers’ Assistant or Script Coordinator to “resend” materials to which they have already been provided access is asking the Writers’ Assistant or Script Coordinator to be a strikebreaker.
· If you recently commenced working as a Script Coordinator or Writers’ Assistant in positions that are covered by The Basic Agreement, but you have yet to join the union, you must also cease working or you will be strikebreaking. If you do not cease working, you may face charges and be prevented from doing 871-covered work when the strike is over.
If IATSE does call a strike, it would be the first in the union’s 128-year history.