More than one hundred Democratic lawmakers expressed their support for entertainment industry production workers on Thursday, Sept. 30, who are preparing to strike. The strike is a push for better working conditions and would affect an estimated 60,000 workers throughout the country.
In a letter to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which includes Hollywood, The Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros., and Netflix, Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Alex Padilla urged the group to reach a fair agreement with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). The letter reminded them of the critical role the workers played during the pandemic. In addition, the letter warned that a strike could have unintended consequences, as the Washington Examiner reported.
“A strike would dramatically disrupt the industry, the economy, and the communities we represent,” read Thursday’s letter. “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. We ask that the AMPTP negotiate collaboratively with these workers to reach a fair contract and address the basic human needs that will allow them to do their jobs safely and with dignity.”
After contract negotiations between the two parties broke down, the labor union’s members will vote on whether to launch a strike this weekend. Officially, it is only a vote to authorize a strike, not a vote to go on strike. However, if it passes, it might result in the largest Hollywood production workers strike since World War II. According to IATSE, the findings will be published on Monday.
Workers are demanding more time for breaks and sleep and higher pay because they say they are exhausted by the intensive production schedules. According to The Hill, the union also wants to end a decade-old agreement that allows streaming services to pay production teams lower wages.
“The key issues in this negotiation, as we’ve come to understand them, are about worker dignity and basic human necessities. We are unified in our belief in the importance of living wages, sustainable benefits, and reasonable rest periods between shifts and during the workday,” the lawmakers wrote.
Co-signers of the letter included Senators Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Dianne Feinstein, and Elizabeth Warren. The letter also said that “failure to reach an agreement would threaten not only the livelihoods of these workers, but also their family members who rely upon work in your industry, sending shockwaves throughout the U.S. economy and the industry.”
Hanny Eisen, for example, gets up at 3 a.m. every weekday to prepare school meals for her two children. Then, two hours later, the single mother drives to Hollywood to work as a make-up artist while the sky is still pitch-black.
“I can’t turn down work as a single mother,” she told NBC News. “I have to pay rent, cover insurance and support my children, so it comes with a price: I’m absent from my children’s lives, but I’m also fortunate that I have work.”
Many people in the industry have the same experience, and such stories have long been shared. Until August, hundreds of anonymous stories submitted by IATSE members from across the country have been posted on an Instagram account called “ia_stories page.”
Matthew Loeb, the union’s president, wrote a letter to members on Friday pushing them to vote yes on the strike authorization.
“Our members deserve respect. Not just because we are the most talented, creative technicians and artisans in the world, but because we are human beings with basic human needs. We require breaks during the workday, sleep, food, a safe trip home and a little time with family or away from the job,” he wrote in the letter. “The demands of the industry must be balanced with the health and wellness of its members. The changes we seek are modest and manageable. What we seek is simply fairness.”
He went on: “I urge you in the strongest possible terms to vote YES on the strike authorization. Stand together. We are strong.”
The AMPTP claims that the union’s demands are excessive, noting that the industry is still recovering from the pandemic.