As film and TV jobs have migrated from Hollywood to production hubs all across the country, the industry’s reliably Democratic-voting union members could play a key role in the outcome of the presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. With razor-thin margins in the battleground states of Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Arizona, the thousands of industry workers who live and vote there could make all the difference.
In Georgia, which has seen an unparalleled boom in film and television production and jobs over the past decade, Trump leads by only about 9,500 votes as of this writing. IATSE, which has endorsed Biden, has 5,079 members who live and work in Atlanta – five-times more than ten years ago, according to the jobs latest data reported to the Department of Labor.
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SAG-AFTRA has another 2,184 members who live and work in Atlanta, according to the latest figures from the union’s Atlanta Local, while the American Federation of Musicians, which has also endorsed Biden, has another 682 members who reside there.
According to the latest data from the Motion Picture Association, the film and television industry is “directly responsible” for more than 17,000 jobs “related to production” in Georgia, and nearly 27,000 jobs related to distributing movies, television and other video content to consumers. And back in June, as production was gearing up to resume in the state, the office of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared that “the major motion picture, television, and streaming companies plan to bring back and hire an estimated 40,000 production workers.”
Not all of those workers will be voting in Georgia – some still live and vote in California and elsewhere – and not all will be voting Democratic, but if Georgia turns blue for the first time since 1992, the influx of jobs and workers due to the state’s generous tax incentives program could prove to have been a significant factor.
In Nevada, where Biden led by only 11,438 votes as of this writing, there are nearly 3,500 members of SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the American Federation of Musicians who reside there, including 1,031 members of SAG-AFTRA; 1,738 members of IATSE Local 720 in Las Vegas; 109 members of IATSE Local 363 in Reno; 491 members of AFM Local 369 in Las Vegas, and 88 members of AFM Local 368 in Reno.
Pennsylvania is home to nearly 5,000 unionized industry workers, including 2,596 SAG-AFTRA members; nearly 1,300 AFM members, and nearly 1,000 IATSE members. Trump’s lead there has narrowed to about 78,300 votes at this writing. And in Arizona, which is home to an estimated 500 SAG-AFTRA members and another 300 members of IATSE, Biden was holding a lead of about 65,000 votes.
And these figures don’t include writers, directors, stage performers or Teamsters, for whom data is not available on a state-by-state basis. Nationwide, SAG-AFTRA has some 160,000 members; IATSE has about 150,000; the AFM has more than 73,000; Actors Equity has more than 51,000; the Directors Guild has more than 18,000; the WGA West more than 25,000, and the WGA East about 6,000. The majority, however, live in California and New York, where Biden won handily.
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