EXCLUSIVE, UPDATED with more details: Strike talk was in the air today at a jam-packed membership meeting of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, where union leaders gave an update on stalled negotiations for a new IATSE film and TV contract. Those talks are set to resume later this week in advance of the July 31 expiration of the current contract.
An estimated 2,000 members filled the Grand Ballroom and an overflow room at the Sheraton Universal in Universal City. The special membership meeting was closed to the press, but cheering and applause could be heard from the hallway throughout the 90-minute gathering.
“It wasn’t a call to a strike,” said one editor leaving the meeting, “but I would definitely support it if it happens.”
Another member arriving at the meeting said with a laugh, “Where’s the picket signs?”
Asked if union leaders talked at the meeting about the possibility of a strike, a member said, “Oh yeah.” Said another: “I think they’re serious about it. Very serious.” Added a third, “We’re really united.”
One person leaving the meeting said, “I’ve been an IATSE member for 33 years, and the tenor of the times is that anything is possible.”
Editors Guild executive director Cathy Repola, who spoke at the meeting, “is not committing to a strike,” said another member, “but she said we need to be prepared if we have to go there.” Another member leaving the meeting placed the odds of a strike at “50-50,” while another said, “It’s a possibility.” The sense of the meeting, said another, “was a little dour but hopeful.”
The on-again/off-again contract negotiations stalled over a rescue of the union’s ailing pension plan, a formula to capture residuals from streaming services to help fund the plan, and 10-hour turnaround time between shifts to curb the industry’s brutally long workdays. The current contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expires July 31.
After the last round of bargaining, Repola said that she’s “skeptical” that a deal can be reached in advance of the deadline.
“I wish I could say I am hopeful we will reach an acceptable agreement, but based on the direction this has been heading, I am skeptical at this time,” she said in a July 3 message to her members. “If we are unable to reach agreement, the IA will send out a strike authorization vote.”
The IATSE, which celebrated its 125th anniversary last week, never has launched an industry-wide strike against Hollywood.
But it has created a #iasolidarity site that states: “IATSE locales in the motion picture film and television industry have come together to build strength and unity to:
* Support each other in negotiations
* Build a strong, unified IATSE
* Protect our standard of living
* Ensure our safety at work