EXCLUSIVE: Hollywood’s unions are hurting. Membership dues, their largest source of revenue, have plummeted during the pandemic as a result of massive job losses and dues relief they’ve provided to their members. Annual financial reports that have just been filed with the Department of Labor show that entertainment industry unions across the country suffered tens of millions of dollars in dues shortfalls last year compared with 2019. Some unions saw their dues intake reduced by more than half.
The International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, saw its dues intake decline by more than $5 million in 2020 – falling by 33% to its lowest levels since 2012. Last year, the guild took in nearly $10.4 million in dues, which was down from $15.6 million in 2019.
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Back in July, when the Cinematographers Guild offered a second round of dues relief as the industry slowly was returning to work, Local 600 leaders told their members that “a single quarter’s dues waiver costs your Local $2,300,000 in lost income, and that money is critical to ensuring Local 600’s financial survival into 2021.” They also noted that “with minimal work assessments, waived 2nd quarter membership dues, and deferred initiation and suspended delinquency payments, the revenue stream that sustains the Local’s work has virtually dried up.”
The local’s coffers are expected to refill now that more of its members are getting back to work.
Nearly all of the industry’s unions have provided some form of dues relief to their members, including the Editors Guild, IATSE Local 700, whose board has approved 50% dues reductions in four consecutive quarters without any service interruptions or staff layoffs. The guild also has covered the $58-a-quarter per-capita tax that members pay to the guild’s parent union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, but that will end on April 1, though the guild still will offer 50% reductions of member dues.
“We are happy to offer a much-needed break to our members during a very challenging time,” said Catherine Repola, the local’s national executive director.
Dues relief, however, comes at a price. Last year, dues collected by the Editors Guild fell by nearly $3 million, from $8.5 million in 2019 to $5.6 million in 2020 – a decline of 34%.
And so it was for many of IATSE’s other L.A.-based locals.
• Grips Local 80: dues plunged more than $2 million, from $4.2 million in 2019 to $2 million last year – a 52% decline.
• Prop Local 44: dues fell off by more than $1.2 million, from nearly $5.7 million in 2019 to $4.4 million last year – a 21% decline.
• Sound Local 695: dues plunged by more than $1 million, from nearly $2.2 million in 2019 to $1.1 million last year – a 50% drop.
• The Art Directors Guild Local 800: dues fell by nearly $850,000, down from $3.3 million in 2019 to nearly $2.5 million last year – a decline of 25%.
• Script Supervisors & Production Coordinators Local 871: dues fell by more than $581,000, from almost $2.5 million in 2019 to $1.9 million last year – a decline of over 23%.
• The Make-Up & Hair Stylists Guild Local 706: dues fell by more than $550,000, from $1.7 million in 2019 to under $1.2 million last year – down 32%.
• Set Painters & Sign Writers Local 729: dues plummeted by nearly $550,000, from $1.1 million in 2019 to nearly $549,000 last year – a decline of nearly 50%.
• IATSE Costumers Local 705: dues fell by over $480,000, from $1.4 million in 2019 to $952,982 last year – a 33% drop.
• Costume Designers Guild Local 892: dues were down by more than $420,000, from nearly $1.2 million in 2019 to $753,000 in 2020 – a 36% decline.
• Amusement Area Employees Local B-192: dues fell more than $350,000 for this 2,600-member local, down from $732,058 in 2019 to $376,583 last year – a drop off of more than 48%.
• Studio Teachers Local 884: dues fell by $65,572 for this tiny local of only 144 members, down from $136,640 in 2019 to just $71,068 last year – a drop of 48%.
And so it was at IATSE locals and other unions across the country.
In Atlanta, where film and TV crews are staffed by members of IATSE Local 479, business was booming before the pandemic. Drawn by Georgia’s generous tax incentives, productions poured into the state, which led to an exponential growth of the local’s membership – from only 198 members 20 years ago to more than 5,500 today. In 2019, the local took in more than $11.2 million in dues, but last year, dues fell by 41% to just $6.6 million – a year-to-year shortfall of more than $4.6 million.
In New York City, IATSE’s 3,500-member Stagehands Local 1 was hit especially hard by the closures of Broadway, Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, Madison Square Garden and the many other live venues that employed its members. In 2019, Local 1 took in $12.7 million in dues, but last year, dues sank by 53% to just $5.9 million – a year-to-year decline of more than $6.8 million.
The union representing musicians who perform at those same New York venues was hit just as hard. Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians saw its dues fall from $7 million in 2019 to $3.3 million last year – a 52% decline.
The AFM’s Local 47 in Los Angeles had a year-to-year dues shortfall of more than $1 million, from $3.7 million in 2019 to $2.6 million last year – a decline of more than 30%.
United Scenic Artists Local 829, which re-affiliated with IATSE in 2000, represents a wide range of designers, artists and craftspeople employed on Broadway and at other live venues around New York City. Last year, its dues intake tumbled by $3.5 million, down from $7.5 million in 2019 to $4 million in 2020 – a 45% decline.
In San Francisco, IATSE Stagehands Local 16 was also hit hard by the closure of live venues in the city. Its dues fell by 46%, down from $3.9 million in 2019 to $2.1 million last year – a shortfall of $1.8 million.
And at the American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents opera singers and ballet dancers at venues across the country, working dues were down by nearly 44% last year compared to 2019. AGMA members pay basic dues of $100 a year, plus working dues that are based on 2% of their first $100,000 in earnings. AGMA hasn’t filed its latest financial report yet, but its chief financial officer, Donald Cavanaugh, told Deadline that the union’s unaudited report show that working dues fell to $1.5 million last year, down from nearly $2.7 million in 2019 – a year-to-year shortfall of nearly $1.2 million. Basic dues of $100 a year were also down by more than $100,000 this year.
Back in Hollywood, dues collected by Teamsters Local 399 fell by more than $1.7 million, down from nearly $6.7 million in 2019 to $4.9 million last year – a 26% decline.
The Directors Guild of America, which also offered dues relief to its members, collected $2.3 million fewer dues dollars last year than it did in 2019, when it collected $24.3 million, compared to $22 million in 2020 – a decline of only 9.5%. Last year was the DGA’s lowest dues intake since 2016.
After reviewing dozens of union financial reports, Deadline found only two – the Animation Guild and IATSE Lighting Technicians Local 728 – that collected more dues in 2020 than in 2019.
The Animation Guild, IATSE Local 839, saw it’s dues intake increase by more than $630,000 – up from $4.6 million in 2019 to more than $5.2 million last year – an increase of 13.7%. Jobs in animation, it should be noted, were among the least affected by the coronavirus shutdown of film and television production. The guild said it did not offer dues relief to its members “because most of our members remained employed. However, the dues relief that was offered by the IATSE was paid forward and donated to an MPTF Covid Relief fund.” The guild donated $200,000 to the Motion Picture & Television Fund to support IATSE members in need, and another $10,000 to Labor Community Services to support efforts to bring food to union members.
Lighting Technicians Local 728, meanwhile, saw its dues haul rise from $2.6 million in 2019 to $2.8 million last year – an increase of 7.6%.
Several other unions, including SAG-AFTRA, Actors Equity, and the WGA, will file their financial reports later this year.
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