UPDATED: IATSE members have ratified a new three-year film and TV contract in one of the most hotly debated and contentious votes in the union’s 125-year history.
The contract was ratified by a vote of 308-73 in an electoral college-style system that allots so many votes to each local based on the size of their memberships. All 73 “No” votes were cast by the Editors Guild, the IA’s second-largest local, which has been critical of the deal for months. IATSE’s other 12 West Coast studio locals all voted to ratify the pact including its largest local, the Cinematographers Guild, which voted to approve the contract by a margin of 71% to 29%.
IATSE said 2,473 of 6,925 Local 600 members who were eligible to vote cast ballots, which marked a return of approximately 36% an increase of last year’s ratification cycle where 28.6% of eligible members returned their ballots.
“This contract is a vital step forward in the continued financial health of our retirement benefits and maintains our robust health benefits, with no increased costs to members” said IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb. “I would like to thank the members of the bargaining committee, who put in hundreds of hours of hard work over the last year to get this done. Your dedication to our members’ well-being improves working conditions for everyone working in our industry.”
In an email to her members, Editors Guild Executive Director Cathy Repola said that an “unprecedented” 71% of her members cast ballots, and that 89% voted against the contract. “We were the only IATSE local that voted against ratification,” she wrote. “We should all be grateful to our (local’s) president, Alan Heim, and our officers and board of directors for their willingness to stand firm on the right side of this issue. They took a bold stance and never wavered in their resolve.”
She also thanked the “literally thousands of you who expressed your support and gratitude for the stance we took. I also want to thank the many of you who contacted me out of personal concern to make sure I was holding up under the pressure of personal attacks and accusations. I never, even for a second, questioned the decision to stand against ratification.” (Read her full letter to members here.)
The pact, which covers some 43,000 of the union’s Hollywood members, was strongly supported by IATSE president Matt Loeb and by the leaders of 12 West Coast studio locals, but was unanimously opposed by leaders of the Editors Guild, including Cathy Repola, its national executive director, who led the opposition.
Loeb called the agreement with management’s AMPTP “a huge victory for the skilled professionals who bring motion pictures to life,” saying it will generate $750 million in new wages, pump $153 million into the union’s health plan, bolster the union’s pension plan by creating a new revenue stream from new media, shorten the industry’s abusively long workdays, and enhance safety.
The AMPTP said in a statement that it “applauds the leadership of IATSE president Matt Loeb and the business representatives of the IATSE West Coast Studio Local Unions in obtaining ratification of a new three-year Hollywood Basic Agreement. We look forward to continuing our long-time working partnership with the IATSE and its local unions to address the evolving needs of both management and labor as significant transitions and new developments occur in the industry during the term of the new agreement.”
Reel Equity, a group founded by members of Script Supervisors Local 871 that seeks pay equity for IATSE’s majority female crafts, accused an unnamed AMPTP negotiator of having made an “insulting suggestion during negotiations that we should not let our self-worth be tied to our wages and should instead be grateful for the benefits we do have.”
The statement also accused the studios of turning a deaf ear to their demands for pay equity. ““As another contract passes, there has been no effort by the studios to address serious pay equity issues for majority and historically female crafts. In negotiations, Local 871 proposed a Joint Labor Management Committee which would review issues of pay equity and then make recommendations for changes in pay practices to correct the issue in a reasonable timeframe. The industry showed no willingness to engage with us in this discussion.”
The statement continued: “The issue we have with our wages is not one of pride or ungratefulness; it is one of fairness and pay equity. We deserve to be paid on par with those working in our departments, in our offices, and on our sets. We will not wait for the next contract to demand that this change be made. Everyone from individual productions and small production companies to major studios must address this issue. Those who are working in positions in the industry that allow them control of or influence over wages on any production should reach out to work with us to correct the pay gap.”
Repola and the Editors Guild argued that Loeb had grossly oversold the benefits of the new contract: that the guild’s LA-based members would get one less hour of rest between shifts than all the other locals; that the pension plan will remain underfunded because the vaunted new media provision is so “extraordinarily narrow” and filled with loopholes that it “excludes nearly all of new media,” and that the burden of increased funding for the health plan will be shifted “away from the major studios” and onto the backs of the guild’s own members who own and operate independent post-production houses.
Fed up with Repola’s naysaying, Loeb reportedly blew his top at her at a tense Aug. 6 executive board meeting in a rant that Editors Guild lawyers say contained “sexist undertones.” In a letter obtained by Deadline, they accused Loeb of having “ridiculed and threatened” her at the meeting, and claimed he made comments that “violate the law” by infringing “upon her freedom of speech.”
The IA’s general counsel disputed the allegations, calling them “hasty, ill-informed and inaccurate.” And then, in a letter to Repola, Loeb upped the escalating war of words by accusing her of violating federal labor law, of waging a “propaganda campaign” against ratification of the contract, and of being “selfish, divisive and irresponsible.”
That was too much for Editors Guild Local 700 president Alan Heim, who called Loeb’s letter “a disrespectful affront to the members of Local 700,” telling his members 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.”
Repola stood fast, telling her members that “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.”
Now that the contract has been ratified, the Editors Guild can either patch up its differences with Loeb or face the consequences. And rapprochement is not out of the question, as Loeb and Repola were once on the best of terms. Indeed, at last year’s IATSE convention in Hollywood, Florida, he presented her with the union’s “Outstanding Woman Leader Award.”
The new contract, whose terms are retroactive to Aug. 1, includes 3% pay raises in each year of the three-year pact; increased funding to the Motion Picture Industry Pension & Health Plans among employers who currently don’t pay residuals, including streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon; annual increases in benefit contributions from all AMPTP member companies; new funding to the MPIPHP for theatrical-length original content intended for streaming that will supplement the existing residuals for content exhibited on new media, and the application of the Basic Agreements terms and conditions to streaming features with budgets over $30 million.
In the area of safety and longer rest times between shifts, the new contract requires mandatory rides and rooms after 14 hours worked on a national basis and mandatory rides in the LA secondary zone after 12 hours (rooms are already required); expanded protection when advocating for the safety of others; national 10-hour rest period for on and off production for local hires in television and new media after the first season; national 10-hour rest period for on and off production for local hires in theatrical and longform productions after two consecutive 14-hour workdays; a nine-hour rest period for post-production, and a straight-time penalty for invasion of the new rest period.