Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Job Action Time?

Apparently, contract negotiations between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are not going swimmingly:

The first talk of a strike against the Hollywood film and TV industry surfaced [July 3] in the wake of stalled negotiations for a new IATSE contract covering some 43,000 West Coast below-the-line workers. Bargaining broke off Friday and isn’t scheduled to resume until a week before the July 31 expiration of the current contract. ...

“I wish I could say I am hopeful we will reach an acceptable agreement, but based on the direction this has been heading, I am skeptical at this time,” “If we are unable to reach agreement, the IA will send out a strike authorization vote.” [wrote Cathy Repola, executive director of the Editors Guild, part of the IA bargaining unit].

“The existing residual streams are no longer sufficient to secure the future viability of the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan as they are generated by decreasing secondary markets. We absolutely must replace that loss in revenue with enhanced residuals from streaming releases." ...

A wee bit of history: Back in the fifties and early sixties, the entertainment unions negotiated different residual formulas with motion picture studios. The above-the-line workers (screen writers, actors, movie and tv directors) negotiated re-use residuals that went into their individual pockets; the IATSE negotiated residuals from broadcast tv and secondary markets that flowed into its health and pension plans.

The forumla held for decades, but is now breaking down as pipelines for delivery of entertainment content changes. Broadcast TV is half-dead, Cable channels are shrinking, and DVDs are a quaint technology that fewer and fewer people purchase. (So you know, DVDs used to provide BIG money into the IA's health and pension plans.)

The above-the-line guilds had the kinds of residuals that made it easier for the producers to reach deals. For the IA the task is (seemingly) harder. If no agreement is reached, there will be a lot of IA members (including Animation Guild folks) out on the sidewalks with picket signs.

And in this era of new precedents, yet another precedent will be broken. The largest entertainment union in the United States will have struck over a long-standing contract, something it has never done before.

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