Hollywood’s Overworked Crews Overwhelmingly Vote to Authorize a Strike

IATSE members discuss how workers in the entertainment industry have been run into the ground—and why they’re fighting back.

Maximillian Alvarez

Union members get pro-labor slogans painted on their cars during a rally at the Motion Pictures Editors Guild IATSE Local 700 on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Members of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. According to an announcement from the union Monday morning, 90 percent of members voted, and 98 percent of voters said yes to strike authorization. The vote could result in roughly 60,000 workers walking off the job and bring the entertainment industry to a halt. As consumers, we tend to associate the entertainment industry with acting stars, elite directors and producers, and big studio executives, but hundreds and and even thousands of workers make every production possible, and many of them are grossly underpaid, overworked, and denied basic necessities like breaks and time to sleep between shifts. Combined with the explosion of streaming services and ever-increasing demands for studio-quality productions, workers in the entertainment industry are being run into the ground, and they have reached a breaking point. 

IATSE represents over 150,000 technicians, artisans, and craftspersons in the entertainment industry, including live theatre, motion picture and television production, broadcast, and trade shows in the United States and Canada. The union is composed of many different locals, not all of which are currently voting to authorize a strike. According to Deadline, there are actually two separate strike authorization votes going on — one among the union’s 13 Hollywood production locals covered by the Basic Agreement, and the other covering 23 different locals outside Los Angeles who work under the Area Standards Agreement.” In this urgent Working People episode, we talk to a panel of IATSE members about the work they do and the significance of the strike vote (underway at the time this was recorded. Panelists include Marisa Shipley (Local 871), David McMahon (Local 52), and Fae Weichsel (Local 600). 

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Maximillian Alvarez is a writer and editor based in Baltimore and the host of Working People, a podcast by, for, and about the working class today.” His work has been featured in venues like In These Times, The Nation, The Baffler, Current Affairs, and The New Republic.

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