Cinema and television union initiates strike authorization vote
October 2 — A 60,000-member union representing artisans in the entertainment industry began a vote on Friday morning whether to authorize a strike against film and television producers following a series of complaints concerning working conditions and wages.
If the vote, which ends Sunday, is in favor of allowing a strike, the union will hold a second vote on the action.
Liz Pecos, president of the New Mexico chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Employees, Santa Fe-based IATSE Local 480, was optimistic about the prospects for the local vote.
“We expect a positive result and a high turnout,” she wrote in an email. “We mobilized the members and focused [get-out-the-vote] efforts throughout the week and will continue throughout the weekend. “
The local, which has around 1,600 members, needs a 75 percent majority of the vote for its 15 delegate votes to count as a “yes,” Pecos said.
Members of Local 480 work on 11 television and film productions in New Mexico, including the fourth season of Roswell, New Mexico, at Santa Fe Studios.
The national IATSE cites working hours “excessively dangerous and harmful” for union members; unlivable wages for the lowest paid artisans; lack of rest during meal breaks, between working days and weekends; and lower wages for workers on “new media” streaming projects, “even on productions with budgets that rival or exceed those of traditional blockbusters.”
IATSE has been negotiating with the Alliance of Film and Television Producers since the spring, but union leaders say the strike authorization vote is coming now because producers have not made a counter-offer to the union since 11 days.
“We are tired, we are frustrated and we are angry at the disrespect that the companies we work for have shown us in this process,” Pecos wrote in the email, describing the experiences of union members. in New Mexico. “They have made hundreds of millions of dollars because of our hard work, and they have given up on talking about a fair contract, including issues that will ensure our ability to do our jobs safely.”
Very long working hours are common in the film and television industry.
“We are tired of the unhealthy 14, 16 and up to 8 hour days when we work for weeks or months,” Pecos wrote. “We are tired of the constant failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks, between work days and weekends.”
Pecos said workers’ long and short journeys on dark roads after working days of more than 14 hours in New Mexico have taken a toll on their physical and mental health over the years.
“Working conditions in New Mexico can be tough, especially if you have companies that exploit the workforce with unsanitary working conditions, such as excessively long working days or weeks without adequate rest on the job. weekend, ”Pecos said. “Producers can make these conditions worse by not giving members time to eat and rest in the middle of a long day of filming.”
She said Local 480 had won public support from government leaders. Democratic congressional delegates and state legislators in New Mexico have said they support IATSE.
State House Speaker Brian Egolf, House Majority Leader Javier Martinez and Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos have issued a joint statement in support of the IATSE strike authorization vote.
“The members of IATSE 480 are the backbone of this industry,” they wrote. “Every day their work makes New Mexico look great in the eyes of the world.… IATSE members have risked their health and safety over the past year, working during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the film and television industry remains intact. Production has now returned to pre-pandemic levels, in large part thanks to the critical role these workers play in turning creative vision into reality. “
In Congress, 31 senators and 87 representatives sent a letter to Carol Lombardini, president of the Alliance of Film and Television Producers, declaring that they are “united in our belief in the importance of living wages, benefits. durable and reasonable rest periods between shifts. and during the working day. “
Democratic members of the New Mexico congressional delegation – US Senses Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján and US Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández and Melanie Stansbury – issued a statement “urging the [producers] association to be negotiated in collaboration and in good faith with the artisans of Hollywood. “
“Behind-the-scenes workers such as cameramen, cinematographers, editors and art directors – the engines of the entertainment industry and the creative arts – have played a vital role in sustaining film and television productions throughout. throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, often at risk to their own health, safety and well-being, ”New Mexico Democrats wrote.