IATSE: Doing Good in Local Communities

As a film and media major, IATSE_logo.svg.pngI have enjoyed working on the production process of various short films throughout my time as a college student. That is not to say it is not time consuming and often stress inducing when things don’t go as planned. Over time, I have gotten to understand this process and what those who work on sets go through in order to achieve good professional content. When watching a movie or TV show, one generally does not take into consideration the physical work that goes into the production process. “Below-the-line workers” such as camera operators or lighting and sound technicians are necessary to the functioning of the entertainment industry.

The IATSE, which stands for The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada, was founded in 1893 as a way to establish fair wages and working conditions for these workers. It has since evolved “… to embrace the development of new entertainment mediums, craft expansion, obamalocal12.jpgtechnological innovation and geographic growth” (IATSE website). Workers who are protected under the alliance work in theatre, motion picture, television production,  broadcast, stagecraft, and tradeshow, with over 130,000 members in 2016. The benefits included under the IATSE National Benefit Funds are “…the Pension, Annuity, Health & Welfare, Vacation and 401(k) Funds” (IATSE Website).

IATSE is composed of hundreds of local unions which are organized to represent workers by geographic and craft jurisdiction. These unions acquire their own “…Constitution and By-Laws, elections, dues structure, and membership meetings” (IATSE Website). The locals discuss labor contracts that involve wages, grievance procedures, and work rules, all while representing the overarching goals of IATSE International.

In a specific incident with the writers of the CW show America’s Next Top Model, writers of the hit reality show went on strike due to their lack of benefits from their employers. Their request was to join the WGA (Writers Guild of America, West). Writers are a key component to a series as successful such as this, so it only seemed fair for them to obtain benefits and protections.77665230.jpg However, the twelve employees who were the first to go on strike were dismissed from the show, and WGA acquired an unqualified defeat. In Cynthia Littleton’s book TV on Strike: Why Hollywood Went to War Over the Internet, she discusses this incident and IATSE’s role in it. She states, “The WGA’s move on Top Model irked the notoriously protective union for Hollywood’s craft and technical workers,the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. IATSE took the position that some of the work done by those who sought WGA coverage actually fell under its purview as the umbrella organization for the union representing movie and TV editors” (61). With all of this chaos and the unfortunate outcome of the situation, IATSE made a deal that would cover even more below-the-line workers such as grips, and sound and lighting technicians. With this negotiation came the employment of IATSE-represented editors on America’s Next Top Model, who replaced the story producers.

IATSE has successfully held its proposal to maintain and enhance its “…position in the vanguard of the entertainment industry through effective rank and file empowerment, political engagement, and our dedication to grass roots organizing” (IATSE Website). The union works hard to represent every worker who is employed in the crafts of the entertainment industry and does so by working on local levels. 

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