A back alley graffiti wall film set in downtown Los Angeles, Photographer Ricardo Diaz, taken from Creative Commons

Hollywood has long worked under the golden rule in entertainment, the show must go on but at the expense of who and how many? The entertainment industry projects an image that is glitz and glamour but in reality it’s more in line with blood, sweat and tears. The hard work of the many people who comprise the crew for film and television have long been abused under the golden rule but now they are fighting to get rid of it in IATSE solidarity.

Social media banners, car stencils and stickers saying “give us rest” or “union strong” are abundant in Los Angeles from union members to its supporters. Hollywood has had a history with long hours and tight schedules which became a norm in the industry and since the pandemic these conditions have worsened for film and television crews. You are expected to give your life for your job, be available at all hours and for many hours. The toxic culture is widespread and is often perpetuated between those suffering from it. Yet the contract negotiations between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, better known as IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers or AMPTP, has sparked a strong resistance against the abusive culture crew members’ experience.

A lot of us know what overtime feels like and we don’t mind it once in a while. The extra money is nice but ultimately we want to be able to go back to our lives and families. When you work in the entertainment industry, overtime is expected, every day. For many, their work days can consist between 10 to 18 hours and this doesn’t include the time spent in the car traveling to and from work. These expectations can only lead to exhaustion that can cause physical and mental damage on anyone. Imagine working for 16 hours, 8 a.m. to midnight and your call time is 6 a.m. the next day. Depending on the gig this can go on for months. When do you sleep? How do you wind down? There isn’t some type of person who is resilient to these hours and pushes through. If you pop in to @ia_stories on Instagram, you will find a slew of people in all sorts of positions that are burdened by this and I urge you to read them. No one should have to work themselves to the bone in order to gather enough money to pay rent, to attain a dream job or to keep their job. Why can’t these jobs be acquired by merit, not what you’re willing to give up? Many of these positions are filled by highly skilled individuals and they are not respected for their skills.

You might be thinking, well why don’t they just say no to the overtime. Saying no in the industry can mean losing your job, since working in entertainment is glamorized there are many people who are waiting to get a shot or to get a foot in the door. Until your foot is in that door you don’t realize that the fantasy isn’t real, the tinsel is lackluster. Sure people love what they do but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they still deserve to rest and deny hours that conflict with their health, mental sanity or family life. They shouldn’t have to worry about their position if they have to tend to their basic needs as a human. When you work 10 to 18 hours a day, there is no time for anything else.

Companies such Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Apple TV are the companies sitting at the negotiation table. These companies want to continue to function on a lower tier with the union, which allows them to pay the minimum for their labor as well as opt out of allowing credit for members’ pension hours. IATSE took a stand against these companies stating that “Not-So-New Media doesn’t need a worker subsidy. New Media is now the industry standard and growing exponentially. This is not just about streaming companies – among the most valuable corporations on the planet – but also about the studios and networks where our members’ labor facilitated their ability to compete and succeed.”

These subsidies were intended to help the streaming platforms well over ten years ago but now this is the most common form of how we consume our entertainment from tv shows to movies. The incentives that were initially negotiated are out of date and no longer apply, especially when a lot of what we did during the pandemic was binge on entertainment. Over the years and especially during the pandemic, the budgets for streaming content has boomed but the crew’s have not seen the same growth in their bank accounts. Streaming platforms no longer need a subsidy in order to produce content, they are now the leaders in the industry and the fact that they don’t want to respect the requests made by union members is beyond greed, it’s despicable.

Many have come forward about how crew members have died on set and how production does not stop for it, not even for a moment. If this doesn’t give you an idea of the lack of humanity that the industry has, I’m not sure anything will. No one should die for our entertainment.

“Union members say that working conditions, which have long been difficult, have been exacerbated by the pandemic and a streaming era in which demand for content has skyrocketed. Through this strike authorization, they are demanding better wages, longer rest periods, a bigger cut of streaming profits, and a level of respect they say they are not treated with,” reported by Andrew Chow for Time magazine.

The deadline to reach an agreement on IATSE’s terms for the new contract had passed with no sign of budging from the AMPTP. Union leaders rallied members to authorize a vote for a strike which was passed last Monday with an almost unanimous vote in its favor. Out of almost 60,000 eligible voters, 53,411 turned out to vote with 98.6% voting yes.

Since the initial threat for the strike many people working in the industry have come forward with the abuses they have suffered within the industry. It has become more than a strike against streaming platforms, it has become a movement to change the working conditions that so many have had to endure. If the AMPTP does not respond to the demands made by IATSE, this will be the biggest strike in Hollywood history. Conditions must change for those within the industry on every level, Hollywood needs a massive reformation and it shouldn’t stop here.

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