IATSE and Teamsters Warn of Another Hollywood Strike at Massive Rally: ‘Put Your Helmets On’

Rexa Vella

IATSE and Teamsters Warn of Another Hollywood Strike at Massive Rally: ‘Put Your Helmets On’

Hollywood union leaders warned of the possibility of another strike this summer if the studios cannot reach a deal before crew contracts expire on July 31.

Speaking to a rally of more than 2,000 crew members on Sunday at Woodley Park in Encino, Sean O’Brien, the president of the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, said the unions should commit to withhold their labor — and not grant an extension — if a deal is not agreed by the deadline.

“We are not afraid to strike,” O’Brien said. “If these greedy corporations — whether it’s Amazon, Netflix, Sony… Disney — if they choose not to reward our members, they are putting themselves on strike. We will put them on their back, on their knees, begging for mercy.”

Negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are set to begin on Monday. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Teamsters and the Hollywood Basic Crafts will jointly bargain health and pension benefits. Over the next few months, IATSE and the Teamsters and Basic Crafts will then bargain their separate agreements, with the hope of having the deals ratified by the deadline.

At the rally, Matthew Loeb, the international president of IATSE, struck a somewhat more moderate tone than O’Brien, repeatedly emphasizing, “There’s enough to go around.”

He also addressed one of the key issues in the negotiations — artificial intelligence — saying it should not be used to replace workers, but also that it has the potential to lighten the load.

“Those advantages need to take the pressure off our jobs, so we can enjoy our families and live these lives, and not have to work 80-hour weeks,” Loeb said. “If that efficiency comes, it needs to come to us and our jobs. And we will use that to do our jobs better. But we want some of the spoils of artificial intelligence.”

O’Brien, who built a national profile last year with a threat to strike at UPS, was more combative.

“We have a message for the white collar crime syndicates known as the studios,” he said. “When you fuck with the Teamsters, or any other union, it’s a full contact sport. Put your helmets on and buckle your chin straps.”

Thirteen IATSE locals work under the Basic Agreement, including the International Cinematographers Guild and the Motion Picture Editors Guild. Another 23 locals around the country work under a parallel contract called the Area Standards Agreement.

Jackie Martinez, a costumer, said she was worried that AI could be used to take away jobs.

“AI is definitely a threat,” she said. “Producers, I feel, are also trying to reduce our crew numbers in our departments… That’s how they’re trying to save money: using less of us.”

Another costumer, Caitlin Dolittle, said that AI also threatens to change the way her job is done.

“The second that you start automatically generating bodies, they already have clothes on them,” she said. “What am I supposed to do? One of my favorite parts of this job is interacting with background actors and creating individual characters to create texture and scenes. Having a computer generate that is not it.”

The upcoming talks were on the mind of many members at the American Cinema Editors’ Eddie Awards; American Society of Cinematographers’ ASC Awards; and Motion Picture Sound Editors’ Golden Reel Awards.

DP Amy Vincent — who won the American Society of Cinematographers Presidents Award — emphasized the issue of set safety, which is top-of-mind as the “Rust” trial unfolds in New Mexico, where armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed is accused of negligence in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

“No one should ever be at risk on a movie set,” Vincent said. “Human life is the most precious thing that we have, and we can’t make financial or schedule decisions that jeopardize that.”

Hollywood is still reeling from the impact of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes that brought production to a standstill for much of last summer and fall. Production is still not back to full strength, and many below-the-line crew members have struggled to find work over the last year.

The current versions of the Basic and Area Standards Agreements were ratified in November 2021 by a thin margin after a contentious negotiation period that nearly resulted in a strike.

This year’s negotiations are also expected to focus on wage increases and “quality of life” issues surrounding the hours worked on set, including meal penalties and turnaround times.

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