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Strike Date Set for 60k Film and Television Workers (iatse.net)
139 points by asdff 5 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 77 comments





I'm not super pro-union (plenty of mess there) but there really are some reasonable asks union side.

My guess, folks have been NOT working the 12+ hour days, have NOT been doing the "rolling lunches" and other wild hollywood stuff (that a construction worker would think was crazy) during COVID. Might have opened their eyes to life outside of the hollywood dream machine.

Maybe look for things as basic as:

Mandated stop production 30 minute lunches. Mandated 10 hour turnarounds seem totally reasonable And bottom line, new media isn't new media anymore, it's big business so sorting that out also makes sense

I've never fully understood why hollywood can't always take a standard 30 minute lunch break. The job site across the street, lunch time, everyone puts down their stuff and eats and relaxes. And end of day, they are gone (unless it's a rush and paying overtime). (note this is my list - union's position may be different etc).


Most productions started up in August 2020 with strict Covid protocols; personally I've had 1 week off since then. Crews have been doing full days, with masks. Normal work under harder conditions.

They finally offered 10hr turn around after we voted to strike; and its with strings. They cant even give an hour for sleep. Ive done the 14-17hr days, with 9hr turn around, and I live 1hr 20min from set, so thats 6hrs personal time a day to eat and sleep.

As for lunch, many shows do have a 30 min lunch, but the flow works out that not everyone gets an equal lunch, some have responsibilities that require them back on set before the others. Production will not wait on one person to eat. Also 30 minutes in a 16 hour day isnt much anyway


Don't worry - for those of us not in industry or industry adjacent the industry seems totally crazy - ie, we get overtime occasionally, but hollywood seems built on it

Seeing the money being thrown at SVOD by apple/netflix et al, where does it even go if not into below the line pockets? The production budgets for some of these things rival movies of the past.


Thats the other big issue - we helped streaming get it's feet by allowing lower pay, lower benefits, and longer hours, back in 2007-8 since streaming wasnt yet considered 'viable'. They agreed to revisit it in the future when it was viable. Now they won't even discuss it.

Extra money goes right to the companies. Actors dont get the same residuals from streaming either, just look at Scarlett Johansson's lawsuit.

Streaming contract language is based on number of subscribers, so before Disney+ launched, they made a bunch of movies under the zero-to-tiny subscribers model, essentially a low budget contract, to avoid paying normal rates, but these were full fledged films and shows.


My soul weeps for poor (net worth: 165 million according to google) Scarlett Johnansson. She was only paid 20 million for that movie, but then scammed out of additional royalties by Disney. How is somebody supposed to get by on a mere 20 million per movie. Making that movie took away half a year of her life!

I think it's not just the studios' greed that causes the normal Hollywood workers to get fucked, it's also A-list actors' greed.


Ignore the quantities - she asked for that pay and they willingly paid it. The issue was they had a deal for this movie, and they broke it, rich or not, they broke contract. And if they break it once, they'll do it again. Many actors rely on royalties and this same situation, but don't have her clout.

The divide between screen and streaming is being abused by the studios, who make far more than the paltry sum for her face across the world and loss of privacy.


The whole hollywood accounting and cost shifting game is funny - I'm glad she is taking them on - I didn't look closely but wouldn't be surprised if her case was pretty good.

When you just look at how much she made in isolation, of course it seems like she’ a spoiled brat for suing to get more. But Disney promised her one thing (an exclusively theatrical release) and delivered another (a dual theatrical/streaming simultaneous release), and then they tried to shame her for standing up for herself. I doubt very much they’d have done the same to Chris Evan’s or Robert Downey Jr. They deserved to get sued, and I’m glad they had to pay up.

I can see her as a spoiled brat, especially after how she (or rather her people) framed this in the media. And at the same time I can see Disney as an evil corporation scamming people.

>I doubt very much they’d have done the same to Chris Evan’s or Robert Downey Jr.

Is this supposed to be about gender? Or what is this supposed to mean? Evans got less for the latest cape movie than Johansson got for Black Widow by the way ($15M vs $20M). She was in that same movie (Avengers: Endgame) and made the same as Evans.

Disney is an evil corporation, they will try to fuck with everybody if they think they can get away with it. I am sure if Avengers: Endgame was released now and in the way Black Widow was, they'd have tried to scam Evans and Downey Jr (and Johansson too) the same way they tried to scam Johansson now. Hollywood invented Hollywood accounting to scam people (and the state) long ago. One example of who got scammed this way is Stan Lee, who sued and got awarded $10M for Spider-Man from Marvel.

There sure is a lot of sexism in Hollywood, but this isn't it, as far as I can tell.


I mean, who are you cheering for here? If Scarlett Johanson managed to bankrupt Disney, I would say the world was a better place. You might be right that A-list actors are somehow shrinking the pot for the rank and file, but my understanding is that the A-list brings the audience that more than pays their salaries. Which means you’d expect a bigger pot to pay those working on those films. I suspect the bigger problem with base salaries has more to do with the market forces that make some of the cheaper character driven movies no longer attractive from a distribution point of view. But this is my arm chair speculation based on some random things I’ve been hearing people talk about lately.

I am not cheering anybody here. I am watching a very rich person fight a very rich evil company over a lot of money, while I read articles of not so rich people asking Disney and the rest of Hollywood for a proper lunch break and not having to work 17 hours a day while still barely making ends meet if at all.

First, no, because big production budgets go to producers and other above the line people before the money gets anywhere near the crew. And this is true for Apple and Netflix just as it is for anyone else.

But second, also no, because streaming services are the bulk of the problem.

https://www.fastcompany.com/90683559/hollywood-is-on-the-bri...

Production schedules are more volatile than they used to be, and streaming services don't have to pay as well as normal productions, owing to an outdated contract.


What is keeping people do this work? I understand medical workers to give all they can during these times, but not in the entertainment industry, it is not a critical sector. Nobody died because of delay of the latest blockbuster or soap opera.

We're not saving lives, but we know what we make often makes someone's day better, entertainment is important in a pandemic. Past that, the people in the industry are fantastic humans you get to know as family, and there is usually a team spirit of "lets over come this adversity". The pay used to be acceptable for the work required, but that has shifted significantly.

The work is far different than anything in the real world and can be rewarding, even just to witness - I've helped burn buildings down, flood a bedroom, built canoes, treehouses and a guillotine, rig cameras on cars, and built scenery from 1600s onward, to name a few. Many see their contributions directly affect, and often visually, the end product, it can be pretty neat!


I used to work in a building in an area where they did lots of movies. My impression was that it’s very interesting and diverse work. Sometimes they would build complete houses, next day they would enact a car crash scene. I often envied the people being outside doing something different every day and moving around a lot vs me sitting in the office staring at a screen the whole day.

Good luck to you brother! I wish everyone knew how hard the various trades work to make these shows happen. As you stated elsewhere, the work is a reward for making magic happen, but so is maintaining your quality of life.

I worked as a grip on numerous film and video shoots in the 80s and 90s. The working conditions were brutal but the pay was good. Lot's of people wanted to do the work, so the situation was ripe for the type of working conditions that are being reported.

If you have ever worked on a film set (I can't comment on all of the environments IATSE members work in), it can be complete and total chaos with very small moments of coordination. I don't want to excuse the madness of why talent, technical and directorial can't all coordinate to improve the overall efficiency of the set. This is why people don't just put down their equipment at noon and grab lunch. Everyone is standing around super-busy doing nothing until that one magical moment where everything aligns and you better gosh darn be ready right then and there or you will find yourself replaced. Like it said, it could be brutal!


Sometimes when shooting on location with permits to close city streets and the like there are heavy costs to running over the schedule. Or in some cases it's not possible at all. They might also be using expensive rental equipment which has to be returned by a certain time. So it can be cheaper to just force everyone to work through lunch and pay the overtime.

(I don't think abusing workers that way is justified just to save a buck and I hope the union members achieve their goals.)


Aren't there already laws that grant breaks during work? Does Hollywood not abide by those? Who polices that sort of thing? (Also not very pro-union.)

I worked at a Walmart 20 years ago that would lock employees in at night-- even when their shifts were over, in an attempt to get them to work extra hours.

My first gig out of college-- the company said they didn't pay vacations or holidays for the first 6 months. I had no idea this was illegal in California, but one of the other hires did and got them in some major amount of trouble for it. They also asked me to sign a non-compete, I knew that was illegal and told them "I'll sign if you want, but these are illegal in California so its unenforceable." And they also forbade me from talking about my compensation, which is illegal. I later found out some people were making half what I was, and some people were making significantly more than I was. During the negotiations they told me they absolutely couldn't go over number X, when in fact that was not true. Of course they didn't want people comparing salaries.

Employment is the wild west. A law just means you have some recourse when they do a thing, not that they won't do it.


I think smartphones are helping change the game a little. With instant video streaming and ease of providing proof, I predict employers will be more wary of trying to get away with nonsense like locking people in, especially big employers.

One big change that needs to happen, especially in the labor “friendly” states of CA/WA/NY/MA is modifying the all party consent recording laws to one party consent. Employers (and people in power) should be afraid their audio is being recorded so they cannot claim he said she said when they try to get away with something illegal verbally.

Edit: my list of states should be CA/WA/CT/MA. NY is already one party consent.


I agree with this completely.

I've been in situations where proof of what happened was badly needed.


NY is already one party consent.

Oops! I meant CT. I misremembered the map I had memorized.

Apparently Walmart has made some changes for the better then. I worked there for a 2ish years, right up to COVID. You'd get in trouble (and your boss too!) for working very much overtime. Also you'd get in trouble if you didn't take at least a 30 minute lunch break, and you'd get in serious trouble for working off the clock.

Walmart probably got too many lawsuits or something.


Two things happened in California (I don't know if you're in CA of course) started cracking down on employers making employees work through their breaks--and-- forcing employers to actually pay for hours worked with severe penalties.

This is why they're so strict now, at least in CA.

Then they got walloped with a lawsuit about it. I actually used the situation to my advantage. Once I realized what was going on-- I snuck out the loading dock which was never closed and took leisurely lunches. It was assumed you couldn't get out, so you hadn't. I can't have been the only Walmart rogue who realized this, but I never saw anyone else do it.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/wal-mart-a...


This was in Kansas. Apparently they became strict elsewhere besides CA.

Here's a better link. I can't edit my post anymore. The whole thing was really greasy. They'd say they had to lock the doors for safety, but could only open them at certain times, which was absolute nonsense.

And it wasn't just janitors. I was a stock boy. Most big box stores even if they aren't open, restock at night.

https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna4146540


No - those laws do not apply in Hollywood.

This is in part because with a CBA (union agreement) the union can bargain away rights you might otherwise have under law.

This can also be because wage orders (ie #12) modify rules or provide for exceptions.

And then even if on a union set, some things will be ignored (despite all the safety talk from the unions some trades find some of the safety practices a bit overboard or impractical -> looking at you fall prevention standards etc) especially for old timers who started before some of the safety rules came in (juicers / grips etc).

So union lunch break rules etc control - but can be ignored, and enforcement would be through a grievance usually vs a court case in some cases etc.


Not related to hollywood but I worked wildland fire for the local sheriff for a couple years and the 'mandated lunch breaks' were pretty much bullshit. MAYBE 15 minutes to stop and eat (often not even sitting down), then get back to work but had to report at least a half hour of unpaid downtime on the shift report at the end of the day. No wonder that area expertise is also hemorrhaging skilled workers. Luckily it was only part time for me but those guys are really getting fucked over between low pay and the ridiculous breaks

> Aren't there already laws that grant breaks during work?

Last I looked (when working a 24/7 single person operations desk in California), you could just pay extra hours instead of having a 'mandated' break. For that role, having a legal break wasn't really feasible for most of the shifts. How are you going to get someone to cover for 30 minutes only at 4 am in the middle of the graveyard shift?

Anyway, that wasn't too bad, I did 4 pm to midnight and noon to midnight shifts, and it was OK to wander out for a few minutes to pick up takeout and eat at the desk. Lots of waiting around looking at the screen that stayed green most of the time. (Restart daemons when things turned red) Generally incidents only happened while developers were in the office, and there was one time the datacenter called to report a power outage, but it turned out it was just the breaker on the lighting circuit.


They have to abide by them, which is what I can't understand here. I'm in California and the laws are strict, it's easy to sue, and the companies involved (e.g. Disney) are giant. So I just can't see them getting away with violating labor laws. I assume they are looking for protection above and beyond what the law requires? I can't find the actual demands anywhere. The website and links are all basically propaganda links (no section that says "this is what we are asking for").

> I just can't see them getting away with violating labor laws

tell me you have never in your working life gone anywhere near the entertainment industry without telling me you have never in your working life gone anywhere near the entertainment industry.


> folks have been NOT working the 12+ hour days, have NOT been doing the "rolling lunches" and other wild hollywood stuff (that a construction worker would think was crazy)

Why would a construction worker think 12+ hour days are crazy?

My experience is that this is normal for roading workers in the road-making season.

One-hour lunches, though: now that's just crazy talk.


I've just spent a bit over a year in the live entertainment industry, and feel like I might be able to provide some insight here. On the one hand, this feels like an own-goal because no one in live entertainment has been paid since the beginning of 2020. Though that started to change a little over this summer.

On the other hand, many of the people from the live entertainment industry found refuge in film and television. There has been a hollowing out of the industry where the senior folks have stuck around, but lots and lots of people who were early in their career have left and are not coming back. The senior folks can afford a few more weeks of no pay. However, if they cut off revenue to the film&tv world, they are setting up a 1-2 punch to the entertainment companies (1. COVID, 2. strike), and that puts them in a good negotiating position.


This is set to be even bigger than the 2007 WGA strike, which was ~12k people for 100 days. WGA had some precedent-setting wins with that, hopefully the same will happen with IATSE.

That strike produced some of my favourite TV ever. Conan was a riot.

Yeah, a lot of television shows really suffered due to it.

Although, if legend serves correctly, the entire last half-season of Battlestar Galactica was rewritten during the strike and the writers were much happier with the second version.

and we got dr. horrible

This is why we have reality TV

The WGA strike was really significant world historically. My recollection is that that strike created the impetus to do more reality television, which in turn created The Apprentice, which in turn gave us the 2016 election. America is a completely TV addled nation lmao

At the time, the only thing I noticed was one of my favorite actresses from House MD participated in the strike and that the quality of the writing declined shortly after it started.

That said, I completely support the strike! The workers need it badly and the stronger the strikes, the more control the workers will have. The more control they have, the less of a disaster America will be and leave less room for those kinds of consequences! My only criticism of the earlier strike is that it wasn't strong enough to include Reality TV in its coalition.

EDIT: Welp, I was wrong! Sorry about that.

EDIT2: Some people seem to think the show took off after the strike even though it started before:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/arianelange/writers-strike

http://revolutionaryoldidea.squarespace.com/roi-blogi/2020/1...



The Apprentice started in 2004, 3 years before the WGA strike.

I never watched it, sorry I got the timeline wrong. I thought it was popular after the strike. (EDIT: Looks like it ran 2004-2017)

That was one of my favorite alt-history theories. Sad.


Wow, 90% voted, 98% in favor of strike. Solidarity!

And nearly 53,000 votes too! There isnt a member that hasnt suffered on a production, so we all really are amped up to call shenanigans

Amazing! great to see worker solidarity on HN

Meanwhile the top comment here is prefaced with "I'm not super pro-union (plenty of mess there)". I genuinely believe Americans- especially upper-middle class workers like HN visitors- are the subject of a mass disinformation campaign against organized labor.

Most of the stronger conviction anti-union comments I’ve seen on HN are about personal experience. “Mass disinformation campaign” seems like an easy handwave where you don’t acknowledge that unions could have any downsides.

> upper-middle class workers like HN visitors.

Not all of us.

And I know for sure there is at least one trucker on here, I seent it, not sure where that is on the income spectrum, dang-sure not SV money though (is it?).


The best way to avoid a strike is to have a strong strike mandate.

It's easier to bargain, to play "chicken" when you know you have your membership behind you.

It's not easy to threaten a strike when you have a 60% vote, for example.

A union's power is in solidarity.


Is there a page on their website that has a good list of:

- What the workers' demands are?

- What they want consumers to do to support the strike?

Finding it hard to navigate their website, and hearing people on social media say conflicting things, hard to get a read on what the official position of the union is.


https://www.basicagreement.iatse.net/

1) Reasonable rest periods

2) Meal breaks

3) Living wages for workers at the bottom of the wage scale

4) Some other issues that are not publicized during the negotiation process


It would be very interesting to know what the current rest period and other issue status quo is and what the union wants it changed to.

Thanks!

I find the confidentiality around these negotiations interesting. Does anyone have insight into what issues are not being publicized (and why)?


I read the headline as "strike data set" and was really interested to see what industry data IASTE was releasing to help justify the strike to the public and build support. Alas.

When the writers guild went on strike in 2007, reality TV was born. I wonder what will happen this time!

The thing to realize is that abuse works well. You can, from the same workforce, extract more value, or the same value faster, with more abuse. So when it's not regulated, the way to get ahead, or even stay in business, is via abusive practices. So the only way toward a sustainable future is regulation. That way the playing field is level and so there's less incentive to abuse.

Is there a list of demands compared to the current agreement? I can't find the specifics anywhere.

There is some information on IATSE's site, I'll link below. Most specifics are confidential even once the contracts are ratified; there are also two separate contracts in question.

I can say, the core of it is demanding safe work hours, the rest is important but workable. The producers are trying to reduce pay, increase health care costs, skip lunch, and while asking us to work harder, and still pretending streaming media isn't viable. IATSE has been good over the years making okay, but arguably fair contracts, but producers consistently take advantage of the situation and contract language

https://www.asa.iatse.net/ https://www.basicagreement.iatse.net/


It looks like I'm going to have a lot more free time, without Netflix and Amazon Prime to keep my mind busy. This is gonna be rough.

[flagged]


Seems like a great time to stage a strike if the corporate overlords are already under some level of duress. Also, what does being able to see the stage workers have anything to do with it?

They could just be laid off under the present circumstances. If a tree falls in a forest and there's no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Edit, since HN is throttling my response to the bigman433 below: I absolutely agree with you. Much like music industry, to paraphrase Hunter S Thompson, movie industry is "a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs." It's just that now is not the best time to effect change there. Think of it from the standpoint of the owner: you have a venture which is barely making any money at the moment and is not projected to make a lot of it at any point in the next few years. And that venture is starting to cause you legal, PR, and labor problems on top of that. You'd get rid of it at the drop of a hat. Now, if you actually were making money hand over fist, and the flow of money suddenly stopped, that's a MUCH better leverage to make a deal. This presupposes, however, that they'd actually like to solve their problems, rather than just stay angry, which is how it often is. Problem solving is less profitable to the agitators than constant, simmering anger.


If nobody can see people live, as you say, then surely the people making online streaming content are even more valuable right now.

One of the reasons this is all happening is because workers have continually been abused around streaming content. Studios are making more and more money while workers get shafted with ever worsening hours and pay. Studios are abusing definitions of work surrounding streaming shows/movies to drastically abuse hour and pay laws.


Doubtful. There's a notorious shortage of workers in every industry right now, the striking workers will be particularly hard to replace due to their timing, and their strike is probably going to be particularly effective because of that.

That would be suicide. Something like 90% of the workforce agreed on the strike. Imagine firing 60k people and having only a few thousand left. You'd sink immediately.

And backed by the Directors Guild, Actors Guild, Writers, and Teamsters, all of which would respect the picket line

Every job in film is highly specialized, even down to construction. These are trades that are taught and passed down through years of on the job experience. It would take them years to replace every department.

We do it well, fast, and safe.


But what would happen if they decide to move countries over this? Hollywood and other movie and TV production is obviously a powerful tool to sway the public. I bet there are some other countries itching to have their own media production improve.

Eg the people putting money into these productions could take their money to China instead, no?

The strike does seem reasonable to me though.


It happens, but at the end of the day only America looks like America, and they want that look as much as patrons demand it.

Shows used to go to Canada until our tax breaks got better. Some things will always shoot here. Many projects are also tied to the whim or contract of the a big name star.

Once they get digital movies down pat, they'll likely eliminate all our jobs as fast as possible. Which is why we are slowly unionizing VFX workers!


My home city of Edmonton recently stood in for Boston when the "The Last of Us" production came through last week.

Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary get quite a few more acting gigs playing various American cities in American productions than Edmonton does.


I've seen a few movies where they tried to pass off Vancouver as New York. No offense to Vancouver but who do they think they're fooling?

> It happens, but at the end of the day only America looks like America, and they want that look as much as patrons demand it.

Lots of films set in Seattle are or were filmed in Vancouver, and you might not know it unless you live around Seattle.


Plus many shows only have interior shots, with maybe an occasional establishing shot. Worst case they might have to send someone to where the show is set to film the establishing shots, which is likely a one time thing. Everything else can be filmed anywhere.

A good example was "Frasier". I don't think it even had establishing shots, so all we saw was interiors [1]. Even those of us who lived in Seattle when it was on couldn't tell it was filmed in Vancouver.

[1] Except for one episode where they did have significant outdoor action set at various well known Seattle locations, which they did come to Seattle to shoot.


They can build a replica of any part of the world in not much time at all in a back lot in Burbank.

They (big studios and streaming companies) could just make a deal, because any alternative would be worse. With very few exceptions, name actors aren't going to cross the picket line. Squid Game was a success, but I don't think Netflix can get away with subtitled everything.



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