More Perfect Union interviewed Hollywood crew members represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) as they prepare for their first ever strike. While studios like Disney, Amazon and Netflix reap giant profits, especially during the pandemic, crew members who make streaming content possible are struggling to pay their bills.
IATSE, which represents more than 150,000 workers in the entertainment industry, has been in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for months to address abusive work hours and unlivable wages to no avail. With AMPTP failing to provide a counteroffer, 60,000 IATSE members are launching their first nationwide strike authorization vote.
“The money is there, the studios just don’t want to pay for it,” an IATSE member said. “And just to be clear, we’re not asking for a rate that’ll give us a beach house in Malibu. We’re just asking to be able to live.”
She continued, “It’s so messed up when you’re in a Zoom room and you have people talking about how they’re renovating their vacation house… and you’re quietly thinking to yourself, if I cut back to eating one meal a day, can I afford to pay my electricity bill this month?”
“Sometimes I’ve hit 70 hours a week. On a regular, like we’re shooting this for six months kind of job, that takes an enormous toll on you,” another IATSE member added. “I’ve watched people spiral into depression and into addiction, and lose people that they love in their life. I’ve watched people miss funerals, miss birthdays, over the abusive hours.”