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IATSE labor strike is part of larger workers’ struggle in the United States


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IATSE does not work alone when it comes to pushing for better working conditions.

As Hollywood waits to see if the union that represents thousands of technicians and artisans goes on strike as part of an effort to improve working conditions on the set, the rest of the country has already seen maneuvers. similarities from workers in a wide range of industries. .

About 10,000 workers at Deere & Co, the big producer of agricultural products, went on strike Thursday in an attempt to get better wages and incentives, even after their union, United Automobile Workers, concluded a new proposal to contract with the company. More than 1,000 workers went on strike last week at Kellogg, the major grain and food maker. Mondelez International, which manufactures Nabisco products, had to face a work stoppage last summer. And the nation’s eye turned earlier this year to an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, where the large e-commerce retailer has proven capable of pushing back one of the biggest efforts to date to syndicate part of its workers.

“We are witnessing what may be the biggest part of a new wave of strikes, in which workers are expressing their reluctance to endure intolerable conditions. This is what is happening in health care. It happens in the coal mines. It’s happening at Kellogg. It’s happening at Nabisco, ”explains Benjamin Sachs, a professor at Harvard Law School who studies labor law and labor relations. “It’s really cross-cutting across all sectors.”

IATSE officials on Wednesday set a deadline to reach an agreement with the industry’s major production studios by Monday morning. Without a new pact that improves working hours and conditions, union members will stop working in the United States at 12:01 am on October 18. The union is in talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and is asking for a 10-hour delay. between shifts for all workers, as well as 54 hours on weekends. Officials are also calling for penalties for productions that keep working for lunch and an end to the lower rates paid by streaming services.

It’s easy to attribute the IATSE’s decision to the recent coronavirus pandemic. Every studio faces a multitude of health and safety protocols that add costs to every piece of content produced. But union experts believe the union’s pressure for further concessions is part of a cycle that has obvious connections to past moments in American history. Workers have often sought to recalibrate their relationships with employers after earthquake events like World War II and the Great Depression.

Labor groups won new collective bargaining rights in 1935 under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but the push for these benefits was accompanied by “massive and massive strikes, many of them illegal, which began in 1932 and continued. until 1935, ”says Jane McAlevey, a senior policy researcher at UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.

Similar union efforts had taken place before the current pandemic, she notes, including a strike of 7,700 workers at dozens of Marriott-owned hotels in 2018. Coronavirus conditions, she adds, have prompted other employees to reconsider what conditions are acceptable in a variety of workplaces, including hospitals and fast food outlets.

“Overall, we have seen an increase in union activism. There has been tremendous discontent especially from essential workers, those people who performed their jobs during the pandemic and risked their lives, ”notes Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center. “In many cases, they were earning very low wages and receiving substandard benefits. “

The work of IATSE was presented as an example of a larger national struggle. “Right now, 60,000 IATSE film and television workers who make our favorite shows and movies are negotiating at the table right now,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in remarks. she did earlier this week in Washington, DC, adding: “The pandemic has exposed the inequalities in our system, and as we try to move beyond COVID, workers refuse to return crappy jobs at low wages. Potential workers are tired of being spanked one day and then treated like consumables. “

Some labor experts believe IATSE’s efforts have gained momentum. They are impressed by IATSE’s willingness to reveal not only what percentage of voters authorized a strike, but what percentage of members voted overall. Both totals show overwhelming support, they say. And the union’s demands don’t seem particularly onerous. “I think the demands of the entertainment workers are very reasonable,” says Mary Anne Trasciatti, director of social studies at Hofstra University. “People are not asking for the moon. They demand safe workplaces, decent wages and humane treatment. “

Success will depend on whether studios believe they can find an equally skilled workforce during a strike, experts suggest – and that may not be possible, especially as the entertainment industry is under pressure to continue producing new shows for a recently launched streaming series. services, and while advertisers are paying top dollar for live sports broadcasts.

The current labor movement enjoys wider support among Americans, says Sachs, a law professor at Harvard. Given recent trends in the workforce, he says, “if I were a manager, I would be worried.”

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