Sunday, January 23, 2022

How Unions Saved Hollywood During The Pandemic And What’s In Store For 2022

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Hollywood’s guilds and unions saved the movie and TV enterprise in 2021. Working cooperatively with the business’s firms, they adopted Covid-19 protocols that bought manufacturing booming and their members safely again to work, all of the whereas averting strikes that may have crippled restoration efforts.

And earlier this 12 months, Hollywood’s unions had been among the many first within the nation to permit employers to mandate vaccinations as a situation of employment – which NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB gamers’ unions are nonetheless against, as are unions representing law enforcement officials, airline pilots and lecturers.

Hollywood’s present three-year bargaining cycle, delayed by the pandemic, is sort of at an finish, however the subsequent one will start in little greater than a 12 months. Guild leaders are already speaking powerful concerning the subsequent cycle, whereas a lot of their members, who consider they’ve sacrificed a lot, assume it’s time for the businesses to indicate their appreciation on the bargaining desk come 2023.

How We Got Here

Early on within the pandemic, alternatives to strike had been restricted as manufacturing was already shut down. SAG-AFTRA and the WGA each negotiated their present contracts through the bleakest days of lockdown; the DGA bought its deal within the final days of the pre-pandemic, and IATSE negotiated a contract earlier this 12 months that narrowly averted the primary industrywide strike in its historical past.

The DGA, which had solely struck as soon as in its complete historical past – after which for under quarter-hour again in 1987 – started its negotiations with the AMPTP on Feb. 10, 2020, practically three weeks earlier than the primary reported Covid-19 loss of life within the U.S.

The DGA bought its deal on March 5, 2020 – simply two days earlier than Tom Hanks revealed that he’d contracted the virus, and every week earlier than the NBA suspended its season. Overwhelmingly ratified by its members, the DGA pact supplied for vital positive aspects in residuals from streaming exhibits, and extra contributions to fund its pension and well being plans. It additionally set the sample of bargaining for the opposite guilds and unions to observe, which they did briefly order.

DGA and different guild leaders had been additionally shifting shortly to deal with the influence the pandemic was having on their members. “A major concern we’re hearing most right now is about when we’ll be returning to work, and how we can be certain that it’s safe to do so,” DGA president Thomas Schlamme and nationwide government director Russell Hollander instructed their members April 16, 2020. “Rest assured, this is something we’ve been spending a great deal of time thinking about as well. While we don’t have an answer as to when production will resume, we are taking steps to address how we can be safe when it does happen.”

A DGA National Return To Work Committee, spearheaded by Steven Soderbergh, director of the 2011 pandemic thriller Contagion, had already been appointed to “do a thorough examination of the issues at hand, and to make recommendations to the board,” the DGA leaders stated. “The committee is consulting with top epidemiologists in the field, and we will collaborate with our sister guilds and unions and the employers as we put together a comprehensive guide to help us all return safely to work.”

Indeed, collaboration between the businesses and the unions could be the important thing to reopening.

SAG-AFTRA Negotiations & The Safe Way Forward

SAG-AFTRA was subsequent as much as negotiate a contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, the businesses’ bargaining arm that may play a significant position in restarting the manufacturing pipeline and maintaining it flowing.

AMPTP president Carol Lombardini hadn’t pressured a strike since she took workplace in March of 2009, and through the pandemic, has bargained 5 main union contracts whereas on the identical time representing the businesses within the growth of a number of incarnations of the back-to-work protocols.

The SAG-AFTRA contract talks started on April 27, 2020 – greater than a month earlier than the easing of the lockdown. SAG-AFTRA, and the Screen Actors Guild earlier than it, hadn’t struck the movie and TV business since 1980, however with manufacturing already floor to a halt, a strike this second was all however out of the query.

At the identical time, 4 separate units of around-the-clock conferences had been underway to get manufacturing restarted. One concerned the AMPTP and the unions, working collectively beneath the auspices of Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force. Another concerned separate talks among the many unions, and the others concerned the DGA National Return To Work Committee and the SAG-AFTRA President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Safety.

On June 1, the Task Force produced its 22-page Industry White Paper, Hollywood’s first tips for the Covid period. Its suggestions, shared that day with the governors of California and New York, included masks, rigorous testing, social distancing every time attainable, and disinfecting of worksites. The 10-week lockdown formally ended that day.

Schlamme instructed DGA members that “With science as their guide, the Committee consulted with top epidemiologists, medical experts, and risk analysts – and it quickly became clear that testing would be key to our return to work. In parallel, our sister guilds and unions – IATSE, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Basic Crafts, and SAG-AFTRA – were undergoing similar processes. And we locked arms in unprecedented coordination and solidarity. Together, we worked with the employers on a White Paper for state governments to examine the resumption of production.”

Ten days later, on June 11, SAG-AFTRA reached an settlement with the AMPTP for a brand new contract that the guild stated would increase members’ incomes by $318 million over three years and generate greater than $50 million in extra funding for its well being plan.

“We are living in transformational times,” stated SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, who chaired the union’s negotiating committee. “With all that is happening in the world right now, we accomplished something significant.” The variety of confirmed Covid-19 circumstances within the U.S. had now surpassed 2 million.

The subsequent day, the unions launched their very own extra detailed protocols known as The Safe Way Forward – a joint effort by the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, the Teamsters and the Basic Crafts. Their 36-page report, which carried out the extra basic tips set forth in a White Paper, got here out on the identical day that L.A. County allowed manufacturing to renew.

Like the White Paper, the unions’ protocols burdened testing and social distancing, but additionally established a programs of on-set security “zones” to guard solid members, who’re essentially the most susceptible as a result of they’ll’t put on masks or socially distance whereas performing.

In its introduction, The Safe Way Forward famous that “This document was conceived and initially drafted by a DGA committee of working members, based upon close consultation with infectious disease epidemiologists and other experts…SAG-AFTRA was simultaneously but independently working on its own protocols through its President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Safety, its staff, and expert consultants.”

Working collectively and individually, labor and administration had give you a still-evolving set of plans simply in time for filming to renew in California and New York. But they nonetheless needed to codify their work into contract language. And that may take months.

The WGA, which hadn’t struck since 2007-08, was subsequent as much as negotiate a contract with the AMPTP. The WGA’s contract had been set to run out on May 1, 2020, however was prolonged to June 30 “due to the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The talks started nearly on May 18 – whereas Lombardini was nonetheless in talks with SAG-AFTRA. The pandemic was in its first wave, and ten days later, the CDC would announce that the loss of life toll had surpassed 100,000.

The WGA was preventing on two fronts. It was already a 12 months into its historic battle with the most important expertise companies over packaging charges and their possession of manufacturing entities – an historic battle it might go on to win, ending packaging in June of 2022. WGA members had been fired up, and able to tackle the studios as effectively.

Strike fears had been swirling for months. At the WGA Awards that February, WGA West president David A. Goodman instructed the viewers that “It’s dangerously naïve to think that a strike is never necessary.” Then, to cheers from the assembled writers, he added: “I’ll point out that 30% of the nominees tonight are working on shows and features that wouldn’t be covered work if we hadn’t gone on strike in 2007.”

But then got here the lockdown, which precluded any actual menace of a writers’ strike. The WGA’s negotiating committee acknowledged as a lot after an settlement for a brand new contract was reached within the early morning hours of July 1. “Although the ongoing global pandemic and economic uncertainty limited our ability to exercise real collective power to achieve many other important and necessary contract goals, we remain committed to pursuing those goals in future negotiations.”

Those future negotiations will start in early 2023, and WGA leaders are already taking a hardline stance. Last August, shortly earlier than she was elected president of the WGA West, Meredith Stiehm stated that she’s prepared for a “fight” with the most important studios over a much bigger share of streaming income and to attain an extended record of different financial positive aspects for writers.

“I think writers feel in our bones that this will be a crucial negotiation,” she stated in her marketing campaign assertion. “Once again a new business model – vertically integrated streaming – is revolutionizing writers’ jobs, and being used to squeeze our pay. The downward pressure on income that we are all feeling is not a byproduct of the model, it is the goal.”

Stiehm, who was one of many leaders of the WGA’s marketing campaign to reshape the expertise company enterprise, stated that she’s “ready to take on another battle if we have to. When the cause is right and true, I do not fear speaking up, standing up, and holding steady, for as long as it takes. I’m a good fighter.”

She famous, nonetheless, that “the companies are consolidating their power precisely to resist such changes. We know that to make these gains, it will probably take a fight. We’re up to it. This membership has shown time and time again that it is not afraid to solve problems.”

Her working mates – Betsy Thomas, who was elected secretary-treasurer, and Michele Mulroney, who was elected vp – sounded the same theme.

The guild’s 2020 contract talks and its victory over the most important expertise companies, Thomas stated, “Have given our union a duly earned reputation for being smart, tenacious, and, frankly, kick ass. We are to be taken seriously and feared – and heading into 2023, we need to be. I believe our next MBA negotiation will be our most important and difficult negotiation since our strike in 2007. Vertical integration and corporate consolidation have put us – and our sister unions – at a turning point. There are gains that we must secure in two years. We have the strength and the stature, but it’s imperative that we also have a well-conceived strategy and the courage to enact it.”

“The AMPTP’s two favorite words are rollback and NO,” Mulroney stated. “We must not underestimate the tenacity and strategic know-how required just to hold onto what we already have. Including securing our Pension & Health Plans, as necessary. That’s job number one. Although we have plenty of specifics to fight for across all work areas, the 2023 headline for me is clear: We must ensure that the economics of streaming work for writers.”

Watershed Gains For Women

Earlier this 12 months, ladies had been elected presidents of SAG-AFTRA, the DGA and the WGA West, marking the primary time that females have held the guilds’ prime elected posts all on the identical time.

Newly elected SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher can also be waiting for contract talks in 2023. “I intend to build up the perception of SAG-AFTRA as one of power and strength to the envy of our industry peers and reservation of our employers,” she wrote within the newest difficulty of the union’s journal. “We are relevant. We are stars. And we mean business!”

Joely Fisher, SAG-AFTRA’s new secretary-treasurer, instructed members that rising employer contributions to the union’s ailing well being plan must be a main aim of the subsequent negotiations. Fisher and Drescher had been elected in September from opposing factions inside the guild.

“When President Drescher asked how I wanted to be most effective, I told her that my sitting on the 2023 TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee will be vital,” Fisher stated. “As a member of that committee and in my role as secretary-treasurer, I will tirelessly maintain that we must raise the employer contributions to our health and pension plans. While difficult to explain in a sentence, we know that this negotiating point is the single greatest barrier we face to the lasting financial progress of our benefit plans.”

On January 1, 2021, trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan — which has been working huge deficits in recent times attributable to underfunding and skyrocketing well being care prices — raised eligibility necessities. That transfer, in flip, led to an age-discrimination lawsuit fronted by the late-former SAG president Ed Asner that claimed that the modifications fell hardest on the backs of seniors.

Lesli Linka Glatter was elected president of the DGA in September, and in October, when she introduced the co-chairs of the 2023 negotiating committee, stated; “We don’t yet know when our next negotiations will take place, but we are looking ahead as we carefully examine the creative and economic issues faced by our members working in film and television.”

The industries’ return-to-work protocols had been codified in September of 2020 – a joint effort between the AMPTP, SAG-AFTRA, the DGA, IATSE, the Teamsters and the Basic Crafts. Set to run out in June of 2021, they didn’t embody mandates for Covid-19 vaccinations, which weren’t broadly out there but.

IASTE Vs. AMPTP, Vaccine Mandates & What’s Next

IATSE began its contract talks with the AMPTP in May of 2021, they usually’d drag on for months in a battle to curb brutally lengthy workdays and a much bigger share of streaming residuals. But within the meantime, the unions had been shifting shortly to take the subsequent step within the battle towards the coronavirus – vaccination mandates.

SAG-AFTRA was the primary to behave. On June 24, 2021, its board of administrators adopted strict new tips that allowed employers to make vaccinations obligatory as a situation of employment. Less than a month later, the unions banded collectively and reached an settlement with the AMPTP to permit for mandates on a restricted foundation.

Covid circumstances within the U.S. had now handed 34 million, with over 600,000 deaths.

Unable to succeed in an settlement with the AMPTP for a brand new contract, IATSE leaders requested their members for strike authorization on Sept. 20, which was granted on Oct. 4 by an awesome majority – with 98% voting in favor. The AMPTP, nonetheless, stated it remained dedicated to reaching a deal, and talks resumed. But ten days later, as the ultimate deadline for a deal approached, members had been instructed by their leaders to “Assume there will be a strike, and hope there isn’t.”

A deal was lastly reached on Oct. 16, which IATSE president Matt Loeb known as “A Hollywood ending,” saying “We went toe to toe with some of the richest and most powerful entertainment and tech companies in the world, and we have now reached an agreement with the AMPTP that meets our members’ needs.”

But after revving their members for a attainable strike, IATSE leaders then needed to calm them all the way down to ratify the contract – with they did on Nov. 15 by the narrowest of margins. A majority of members from the 13 West Coast studio locals truly voted towards the contract, but it surely was ratified beneath the union’s electoral college-type voting system.

Hollywood breathed a collective sigh of aid. For whereas leaders of all the opposite guilds and unions strongly supported IATSE’s calls for for a good contract, they knew {that a} strike would have thrown their members out of labor simply as manufacturing was returning to pre-pandemic ranges. And after a lot loss, jobs had been returning. SAG-AFTRA reported document jobs and earnings by the primary 5 months of 2021. To meet a house-bound nation’s demand for extra leisure product, producers had sped up the meeting line. A typical grievance amongst IATSE members is that they’re working extra brutally lengthy hours now than ever earlier than.

The AMPTP, in the meantime, nonetheless has two contracts to barter to finish the present bargaining cycle. Talks with the Animation Guild, and with Teamsters Local 399 and the Basic Crafts – which embody IBEW Local 40, Studio Utility Employees Local 724, Studio Plumbers Local 78, and Studio Plasterers Local 755 – will resume in January after a vacation hiatus.

Barring unexpected issues with these negotiations, 2022 must be a 12 months of labor peace for the movie and TV business. But be careful for 2023, because the guilds really feel that they’ve numerous catching as much as do.





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