In recommending a “no vote” on the ratification of new IATSE film and TV contract, Editors Guild Local 700 says that the pact’s new media residuals formula has such an “extraordinarily narrow scope” that it “excludes nearly all of new media.” In a posting on its website, the guild says that Netflix’s Bright “was the sole example cited in negotiations of a recent show that would qualify.”
Bright, the 2017 sci-fi buddy-cop film starring Will Smith, would have met the criteria because it’s longer than 96 minutes, had a budget of more than $30 million and had a limited theatrical release that qualified it to be Oscar-nominated for best makeup and hair styling.
One of the main issue in the negotiations was a rescue of the union’s underfunded pension plan, which is fast approaching “critical” status, in part because it receives no residuals payments from shows airing on streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. The pension plan now says that it will be fully funded by 2032, in part because of this new deal.
“Everyone understood we needed to achieve new residuals from new media to oﬀset declining DVD sales and the reuse of features on free TV,” the Editors Guild says, ”but the new media deal doesn’t do it.” The guild says that because of all the caveats, the new deal only “nominally creates a new residual.”
IATSE president Matt Loeb and the leaders of 12 other Hollywood locals are urging their members to ratify the contract. Loeb signed a letter saying that new media movies budgeted “over $30 million will be produced under the full Basic Agreement, instead of the long-form side-letter, and a new mid-range new media budget tier has been added, capturing wages, terms and conditions for work that was previously fully negotiable.”
The Editors Guild’s leadership, which unanimously is opposed to the new agreement, also argues that the deal’s new provisions for supplementing the union’s health plan is unacceptable because it shifts the burden of additional employer contributions “away from the major studios.” Loeb says that the new agreement will pump an additional $153 million in employer contributions into the union’s health plan, but the guild says that its own members who operate independent post-production houses will “bear the brunt” of those contributions.
The guild’s leaders say they also oppose the pact because “a key health and safety priority in these negotiations was to curb the excessive hours that leave crews dangerously exhausted. This deal nominally increases rest periods to ten hours for production crafts and nine hours for post. But the turnaround provision is riddled with caveats and loopholes that render it ineﬀectual.”
Loeb and the Editors Guild have been engaged in an escalating war of words in recent weeks. Loeb has accused Cathy Repola, the guild’s executive director, of having “violated federal labor law” by just taking part in the recent negotiations because she’s an appointed, and not an elected, official. But that’s true of at least two other local leaders who were part of the IATSE’s negotiating committee.
Repola fired back, saying, “In spite of what the IATSE leadership is indicating, it is my core belief that speaking up on behalf of issues that adversely affect the Local 700 membership is not only a right, but my primary responsibility as the national executive director.”
Loeb also has accused Repola of waging a “propaganda campaign” against ratification of the union’s new contract, which he alleged “is born of motivations beyond the interests of the membership. An activity which is selfish, divisive and irresponsible.”
Local 700 president Alan Heim, however, called that “a disrespectful affront to the members of Local 700,” saying that “Cathy’s brave stance on the contract has received overwhelming support and positive reaction from our membership, as well as from members of other locals.” He added that “It is a sad day for IATSE when its leadership calls defending our rights and voicing our opinions a divisive act.”
The Editors Guild’s attorney has also accused Loeb of having “engaged in a number of unprofessional and potentially illegal acts,” and that his denunciations of Repola, with “their sexist undertones…infringe on her freedom of speech.”
Loeb and Repola haven’t always been at odds. At last year’s IATSE convention in Hollywood, FL, he presented her with the union’s Outstanding Woman Leader Award in recognition of her work as chairwoman of the IATSE’s Women’s Committee.