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Hollywood union workers vote 98 percent in favor of authorizing nationwide industry strike

"I hope that the studios will see and understand the resolve of our members," said the president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

An overwhelming majority of Hollywood production workers voted in favor of authorizing what could be the industry's nationwide biggest strike since World War II.

About 90 percent of the 60,000 members of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE — 53,411 people — turned out to vote. Of those who voted, 98 percent — 52,706 people — voted to authorize a strike, President Matthew Loeb said in a statement Monday.

The IATSE called for the vote Sept. 20 after talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP, which represents major film and television production companies, came to a standstill.

"I hope that the studios will see and understand the resolve of our members," Loeb said. "The ball is in their court. If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer."

Officially, it was a vote to authorize a strike, not a vote to go on strike. If the AMPTP meets the union's demands for better working conditions and pay, a strike could be avoided. A nationwide strike would be the first in the union's 128-year history.

"The AMPTP remains committed to reaching an agreement that will keep the industry working," Jarryd Gonzales, a spokesperson for the AMPTP, said in a statement Monday. "We deeply value our IATSE crew members and are committed to working with them to avoid shutting down the industry at such a pivotal time, particularly since the industry is still recovering from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"A deal can be made at the bargaining table, but it will require both parties working together in good faith with a willingness to compromise and to explore new solutions to resolve the open issues," he added.

The union's contract with the AMPTP, which took effect in 2018 and ended July 31, was extended until Sept. 10. Union members are calling for a new three-year basic agreement that would provide behind-the-scenes workers with higher pay, larger contributions to health and pension plans, meal breaks, improved rest periods and a bigger cut of the profits from streaming productions.

Ahead of Monday's results, many celebrities threw their support behind the potential strike, including the actors Mindy Kaling, Ryan Reynolds, Kerry Washington, Seth Rogen, Anna Paquin, Ben Stiller, Sarah Paulson, Fran Drescher, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

The strike vote even won the support of more than a hundred members of Congress, including several 2020 presidential candidates, like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Solidarity rallies have also been held across the country over the last few weeks.

The union uses a delegate system that requires at least 75 percent of a local union's members to vote to authorize a strike for a delegate's vote to count as a "yes," a source familiar with the vote said.

Jay Tucker, who heads up the Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment and Sports at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, said Friday that a strike could be "problematic for everyone involved."

"It would be tragic if a work stoppage disrupted the industry just as we are coming out of such a challenging year and a half," he said. "We are talking about halting production on a huge segment of TV and film projects — not just in Hollywood, but across the country. I'm confident that all the key stakeholders understand this."