When working class folks fight back against millionaire bosses, they know the deck is stacked against them. That’s especially true of IATSE members who recently took a stand against the powerful and wealthy producers who have been exploiting their labor for profit.
Critics who suggest that the recent IATSE tentative agreement is a gradual gain versus a more sweeping reform—and advocate for a more radical change—don’t seem to understand the bargaining process very well. And they certainly don’t know the fortitude of the workers who were ready to put their livelihoods on the line for the dignity and respect they deserve on the job.
First, before doing anything else, IATSE gauged the priorities of its members. For example, the union had several members who were killed in car crashes due to extraordinary exhaustion from too many late nights with too little rest between shoots. Safety has long been a top priority for the union and its members. The tentative agreement that IATSE members negotiated puts the safety of the crews front and center.
After closely following negotiations, I know how difficult bargaining was. The producers, despite raking in billions of dollars per year, didn’t want to budge on safety, fair wages, or humane working conditions. The union came within 24 hours of a nationwide strike, the first time members had ever been willing to go that far to secure a fair contract. Striking is always a last resort, but conditions had deteriorated so badly for film and TV crews that it became the only viable option. As a result of the stand IATSE members took, the producers returned to the bargaining table, giving members the opportunity to negotiate a contract that includes real and lasting gains for film and TV crews in an ever-evolving environment.
IATSE members also set the tone for other labor negotiations. These brave workers took a stand, not just for themselves, but for all workers who’ve been cheated, exploited and abused by greedy employers. IATSE and other unions on strike led a national awakening that’s shifting the balance of power from millionaire CEOs to the working people that generate those companies’ profits.
We’re immensely proud of the members and leaders of IATSE for standing up for all of us. This is a historic agreement that sets a standard in the entertainment industry while bolstering the leverage of workers all over the country who are ready to fight back.