Members of the union representing roughly 60,000 TV and film production workers voted nearly unanimously to authorize a strike, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced Monday.
The union said that nearly 99 percent of its members voted for the first nationwide strike in the union’s 128-year history.
The vote came after IATSE was unable to agree on a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents Hollywood and streaming giants such as The Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. and Netflix. The union is demanding more time for breaks and sleep and better pay.
“This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry,” IATSE President Matthew D. Loeb said in a statement Monday. “Our people have basic human needs like time for meal breaks, adequate sleep, and a weekend. For those at the bottom of the pay scale, they deserve nothing less than a living wage.”
IATSE will continue negotiations with AMPTP for now, but the vote empowers Loeb to call a strike at any moment.
“I hope that the studios will see and understand the resolve of our members,” Loeb said Monday. “The ball is in their court. If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer.“
AMPTP said Monday that it is committed to working on a deal that will prevent the entertainment industry from shutting down, but it will require “both parties working together in good faith with a willingness to compromise and to explore new solutions to resolve the open issues.”
If the workers decide to walk out, they will shut down the production of most popular TV and streaming shows and movies, many of which have already been delayed due to the pandemic.
More than 100 Democratic lawmakers last week voiced support for IATSE members, but urged both sides to come to an agreement and avoid a strike.
“A strike would dramatically disrupt the industry, the economy, and the communities we represent,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are hopeful that both sides can negotiate in good faith and reach a consensus agreement, which necessitates both parties continuing to participate in ongoing negotiations.”