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How the IATSE Strike Will Affect US Wrestling Television

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

On Oct. 13, 2021 the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced that they will begin a nationwide strike on Oct. 18 if contract deal is not reached. A strike was authorized by the union members last week during a voting process. Voter turnout was 90% and of that, 98.6% voted yes to strike authorization.

IATSE has been negotiating new deals with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for nearly five months to come to a new contract for the Basic Agreement, Area Standards Agreement and Videotape Agreement, which have all expired. For context, the Videotape Agreement covers live broadcasts like news shows, game shows, and wrestling shows.

IATSE and it's union members have been fighting for living wages and livable hours. 12 hour days are the standard, while14 hour days are common. Pay rates for a Netflix movie are way less than that of a Hollywood Blockbuster. If you head to the Instagram account ia_stories, you can

read story after story from anonymous union and non-union members sharing

their experience working in the film and television industry.

I have been in film and television for 4 years now. Currently, I am a 2nd Assistant Accountant on a CW show. I am a non-union worker but plan on joining in January when my parent's insurance no longer applies to me (yes, I am a young person). Joining the union provides me the benefits of health and dental insurance along with a greater ability to find jobs in my field. In my personal experience, a typical day for me is wake up a 6:30am, be at work at 9:00am, work till 7:00pm. Come home around 7:30/7:45pm. Eat dinner with my girlfriend (who is also in the industry and wakes up 4:45am) while watching one episode of television. And then go to bed and start over. Now I understand my luck in working 10 hour days. As an Accountant in the industry, that's typical. But I had to work hard to get to there.

In my early career as a Production Assistant, the minimum work week is 60 hours with the standard more like 75 hours. In my second ever job as a PA, I worked an average 16 hour day with the first day of shooting at 18 hours and the last day of shooting at 22 hours in the snow, snow that I had to drive back home in. When we came home, you have to relax, eat, shower, clean, etc. In this industry, you can only do two of those things.

via ia_stories instagram account

According to Local 600 president John Lindley and National Executive Director Rebecca Rhine, “for more than five months, we have bargained in good faith to get a deal with the employers that would provide our members with safer working conditions, fair wages and sustainable benefits. We have presented data on unsafe hours and inadequate rest periods, as well as lack of meal breaks. We have joined 12 other Locals in the fight for a living wage, sustainable benefits and ‘New Media’ rates that reflect the success of the streaming companies."

Negations between IATSE and AMPTP have been rough to say the least. Union members have been told "days, not weeks" by IATSE President Matthew Loeb in regards to an outcome., and union members have been preparing as much, preparing picket signs and t-shirts. SAG, WGA, DGA, and the Teamster unions have already agreed to support the strike, standing in solidarity. If the strike takes place, this will be the largest nationwide strike in American history.

Hopefully, the gravity and the necessity of this situation has come across to you. This strike is not something that union members really want. What IATES members want are fair wages and an actual life. The 5.5 months off because of the pandemic taught them that. Personally, I've driven home too many times tired at the wheel. My girlfriend and I have plans to eventually marry and start a family, but finding the time to plan a wedding versus doing laundry is daunting and having the time to even raise a kid while juggling feeding myself is ridiculous. You have no idea how frustrating it is seeing the entire world say that 40 hour work weeks are insane, while the film and television workers are scratching and clawing for 40. But enough about the IATSE and AMPTP negotiations, you clicked on this article because you want to know if you can watch Smackdown on Fridays.

Of the union locals that are apart of the contract agreements, 3 of them are truly national, with the other 10 local to the LA region. The 1st national union is Local 800 (art directors guild). These are the people that construct, paint, design every set you see on film and television. The 2nd national union is the Local 600 (camera guild). These are the people that obviously film everything. The 3rd national union is the Local 700 (editors guild). This guild takes all the footage shot and compiles it together to make sense. If a strike happens, any member of these union, along with the 10 other LA unions, will not work. This will practically shut down every single production in America.

As stated before, the Videotape Agreement is one of 3 agreements that are currently being negotiated. This agreement covers national talk shows like Today or Fox News, game shows like Family Feud or Dancing with the Stars, or anything that is filmed in front of an audience and broadcasted live, much like WWE or AEW or any other wrestling company that utilizes professional/unionized individuals who handle cameras, audio, wires, fire kits, lighting, and assisting the road crew will be affected by this strike.

WWE and AEW both use IATSE union members for their broadcasts as seen below.

The union represented in these images are not any of the unions that are directly affected by the strike agreement. However, as union members, if a strike happens, then they are not allowed to cross the picket line, according to their union contract. If they cross the picket line and work during a strike, then they will face punishment, including losing their union membership. WWE and AEW can hire non-union crew but not only is that severely limited already, the majority of non-union members are young like me, and I have no clue how to put a lighting rig together or film a wrestling show. Or, also like me, they plan on joining the union soon and working during the strike might not look that good for my application. Or, especially like me, you are a non-union worker working on a union job and the union gets notice of my hours so if I work then I'm screwed.

WWE and AEW still have their road crew. If you've been to a WWE house show, what you are seeing is the road crews hard work. The road crew work for WWE and understand their specific style, handling the ring, pyro, theme music, etc. According to a Slice Wrestling interview with a former WWE employee, the road crew is employed by Upstaging Inc. However, Upstaging Inc., still employs IATSE union members.

If an IATSE strike were to happen, many unions, including the men and women that film WWE and AEW will no longer be working starting this Monday, Oct. 18th. Additionally, other union members, like the lighting department, will stand in solidarity with those strike, per their contract and moral standpoints. Members of SAG, WGA, DGA and Teamsters will also stand in solidarity, meaning no actors, writers, directors, or drivers will be working during the strike. WWE, AEW, and any other American Wrestling promotion that uses IATSE union crew will be forced to either find replacement crews or shut down production. They can potentially still run house show style Monday Night Raws, but even that seems up in the air.

IATSE union members do not want to strike, but they feel that AMPTP is forcing their hand. This is an ongoing story that will affect wrestling, sports, television and film, and many workers will be out of a job for the foreseeable future, but they feel that its what's best for the industry. "Our goal is to get a better deal that will return us to our work. We will lock arms and stand together for as long as that takes.”

If you want more information, I went in-depth on the strike and it's impact on Ring Post Radio.

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