An IATSE strike could force projects across TV and film to stop production, resulting in scheduling delays and a lack of content.
Productions can try to work around strike limitations, hiring non-union labor or outsourcing productions abroad.
IATSE demanded studios and production companies address an ongoing an unhealthy working environment.
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Members of a Hollywood crew workers’ union is preparing to go on a strike to demand better wages and working conditions. If they do, it could thin out your Netflix queue a few months from now.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees’ (IATSE) contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers hit a standstill last week. The union is voting on whether to authorize a strike from October 1-3. If the strike commences, 60,000 primarily middle and low income earning crew members – from set designing, to costuming, camera operating, and post-production editing – could walk off the job and bring work your favorite TV shows and movies to a grinding halt.
„[A strike] could affect the general public in that they may not have as much content to view in the future,” said entertainment union lawyer Alan Brunswick. „It could slow down production of motion pictures and television shows, and that includes shows that will be on digital services like Amazon or Netflix.”
The strike would have a rolling effect on productions coast-to-coast, impacting smaller-scale projects in the short term, like live shows and daytime soaps, an industry expert told Insider. As more time goes on, the effects can cascade into bigger budget projects, like streaming and feature films, especially those in the middle of shooting or post-production.
This would hit shows from Saturday Night Live and the Tonight Show, to Stranger Things 4 and The Crown, and even the upcoming slate of Marvel Studios projects.
Cable programming on HBO, Showtime, and Starz, which operate under a separate „paid television” contract that hasn’t expired yet, as well as reality shows and promotional work, will not be affected, Brunswick added.
„I have clients that have television series, digital series, and motion pictures that are either already in production or are scheduled to go into production and they’re definitely going to be impacted,” said entertainment labor attorney Ivy Kagan-Bierman.
Production companies and studios have started drafting plants to work around the strike, but their efforts may also change the fabric of the entertainment industry.
„Productions could leave the United States and go to Canada and other places around the world, which again, really affects our economy,” according to Bierman, which might bolster foreign production markets and content. „That being said, there definitely will be many productions that are not able to relocate outside the United States that either will get shut down or will delay their start dates.”
Some productions could try to hire the smaller pool of non-union crew members, Bierman said. But networks like NBC, ABC, and CBS might need to reach into their vast libraries of syndicated or licensed content to show reruns or air reality programming that can fill gaps in the television schedule left by union-worked shows.
IATSE entered negotiations with studios after the prior contract expired at the end of July. Discussions reached an impasse in late September over two contracts that did not meet IATSE’s demands, including improved workplace conditions, such as adequate sleep, meal breaks, and improved wages.
The standstill marks the biggest tension in Hollywood since the 2007-2008 writers’ strike, which ceased production for 100 days.
„These issues are real for the workers in our industry, and change is long overdue,” IATSE said in a statement calling for the strike. „However, the explosion of streaming combined with the pandemic has elevated and aggravated working conditions, bringing 60,000 behind-the-scenes workers covered by these contracts to a breaking point.”
If the strike authorization passes on Sunday, it will be up to IATSE leadership to officially call for a strike.
If you’re a crew member in the television or movie industry with a story to share about unsafe working conditions on set, you can get in touch with this reporter at email@example.com.