Portraits of IATSE: Medical Scares and Car Crashes — Why Members Voted Yes on Strike Authorization

Art Department
Local 871
Now more than ever, I am acutely aware that working at the whim of these schedules costs everything — I have been sacrificing meaningful time with my friends, my family, and my real life to do this work. I vote yes because we went back to work in the middle of a pandemic. I am willing to strike because I know it can be better and what we are asking for is entirely reasonable. On top of that — we just witnessed studios throwing money at new health and safety standards.
Special Effects
Just because we are "below the line" doesn't mean we are beneath respectful working conditions.
We work until we drop. It has to stop. So many of my mentors never picked up their first retirement check for this reason.
Costume Designer
Editor & Associate Producer
It is about changing the status quo and enforcing the idea that as union members and the driving labor force, we have the power to make lasting changes to the film industry.
Susanna Boney
I am ready and willing to "wait it out" if it means a better future for everyone in the industry. If we strike, I will stand with my fellow brothers and sisters in the picket line while we fight the good fight.
We need the proper amount of crew for each project.
The strike scares the shit out of me. For some of us not working can be life-threatening. On the flip side, I have massive migraine issues (bills over 29k without insurance) and pre-cancerous breast surgery coming up that I will not be able to do if I lose my insurance hours. These are the risks you take when changes need to be made. But so can working your life away. I just got a pilot, feeling good about my hours with that pilot, amazing crew, amazing producers.
If we strike, I lose my paycheck. The difference is at least this time I’ll be out of work for a terrific reason. And there’s the bonus of making new friends on the picket line. But honestly, I’m so underpaid it’s nothing I can’t handle. Those of us who make these low rates are unfortunately all too familiar with the struggle to make ends meet when a show is canceled, and a job suddenly ends.
MPEG Local #700
Zack Arnold
We need to be able to put every minute we work on our timecards.
Local 871
Here they share their stories, why they voted yes and why they stand in solidarity with their fellow crew members. It is the first time in the 128-year history of the union that a strike has been authorized, but crew members are ready for what lies ahead.
Script Coordinator
We need 10 to 12-hour turnarounds.
I've been in departments twice where somebody walks in and they are in tears. They’re like ‘I haven't seen my child for four days. I wake up before they get up and I get home after they're asleep.’ If we can make a change that will benefit people who will follow us, then that's the goal. It's unsustainable.
They will fix hundreds of spelling errors, correct day and night scene heading mistakes, work with clearances, legal, and standards and practices to make sure the scripts won’t get the network sued, issue drafts to every single person who works on the show in any capacity, track revision sets, manage writer payments, and about a million other things I either can’t remember or don’t know about. Script coordinators are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These are not entry-level positions. It is truly department head work at an assistant salary. I explain all this at length because what needs to change about my workplace is pay for writer's room support staff needs to start reflecting the time, effort, and skilled labor that it takes to do our jobs. Like any other union job, it takes years of training and experience to master these crafts, and we deserve to be paid as such.
Nickolaus Brown
We need to be able to take uninterrupted lunches and breaks.
Members of IATSE are connecting with each other, and I have realized we are all treading water trying to maintain any semblance of a balanced healthy life. The current pace and schedule do not allow enough time to sleep, attend to family needs or just shut out the stress of the workday or week. After decades of unsustainable hours, unreasonable requests, and very little time off in between workdays, our bodies and minds are telling us something has to change.
The pandemic put a lot into perspective for many of us, including how our lives could be if we simply had time to rest our minds, repair our bodies, and replenish our energy. The world is changing for the better. We thought things would change for the better because of COVID, but it's only shed a harsh light on the reality of the industry. Something that most of us have been too exhausted to even realize until we stopped going 100 miles per hour all the time. We are at a crossroads. As a society we are no longer willing to put up with the status quo. With being pushed down or getting less than we deserve.
I landed upside down, and other drivers helped me get out of the car. Luckily, I wasn’t seriously injured, but I never really took the time off to process what happened or how devastating it could have been. We have become so accustomed to pushing ourselves to our limits that we often don’t realize the mental and physical toll it takes on us. My car veered off the road and rolled three times, crashing into a large highway sign. Years ago, I was driving back to Los Angeles from a film shoot and fell asleep for a second behind the wheel. I had been working long hours for seven months straight, and I think the physical and mental exhaustion finally caught up with me.
Shay’La Banks
Why not try to get a pay rate that is not demoralizing and insulting? Why not try to get reasonable hours so that we can be a part of our family's lives? Why not try to make things better? This is the only chance most of us will see in our entire careers to try and change the way this industry works, so why not try to change things for the better for the future generations of TV and filmmakers?
Local 44
Local 80
We need raises.
Not only can we not afford daycare with my paycheck, but with COVID and a recent hospital stay, we just don't have options for my husband NOT to be the full-time caregiver.
Ali Noyes
Over the last month, I have been learning about other IATSE members who have also fallen asleep or been in accidents and realized just how common it is.
Key Grip
Even as a union member, I still make less an hour than I made babysitting in 2005.
2nd AC
I will be out of work with no ability to collect unemployment. I risk losing my house and my savings, everything really. On the upside, it may be the only time I get a break from work. A strike will be scary.
The 60,000 crew members representing 13 Locals who often work 16-18 hour days are seeking shorter hours, wage scales and better health and pension benefits. But those are just a few of the issues on the negotiating table.
The thing that I love the most in life, has to stop being the thing that causes me to have no personal life.
Amanda Darouie
We need our health and pension to remain great because we wear and tear our bodies daily.
Mandi Line
I want to see the lowest paid person on crews making a sustainable wage for the cost of living in Los Angeles. I want crew members to have the ability to find that work/life balance. I want to know that people are getting home safely. Is that too much to ask for?” />
Local 800
I made one for a colonoscopy, will I get to go, I don't know? Everybody on the crew is in such a specialized job and you can't leave because there's nobody to step in. We have great health insurance, but you can’t make an appointment.
Local 600
It means that I rarely say "no" to work that comes my way because there isn't job security. You never know if a pilot will get canceled or if a show may not be picked up. Because you go from job to job, show to show, there is inherent insecurity to the work. This, along with the 10 to 12-hour days means I hardly have time to devote to my personal life. I have found myself putting off starting a family of my own because, how would I be able to balance raising a child along with work?
Production Coordinator
Jet-lagged constantly. on a Saturday is not okay. We were asked to do it once and it was the exception… until we were asked again and the frequency grew until it was every weekend. Week in. We push ourselves to stay awake until that evening so we can turn around and be up at 5:30 a.m., or earlier, on Monday. Getting home at 7 a.m., taking a shower and getting to your kids' 8:30 a.m. Week out. I had to vote yes. ball game. Awake since noon the day before. Getting home at 7 a.m.
Costumer
Script Supervisor
Art Department Coordinator
We made the mistake of allowing an exception to be made to shoot through lunch and now it’s the norm. Meal penalties are just that, penalties for not breaking at the latest possible time, six hours after call time. I need to sit alone, no distractions and use the quiet time to catch up on my ever-increasing workload of five handheld cameras, changing shots every take with no warning, actors needing line or matching notes, reading the near-daily script revisions or calling home to check how everyone is. We have to say no more! Overtime pay is meant to be a deterrent, a fine. But these things are just built into the budget… well, I don’t want penalties or fines, I want my time. Everyone knows it can be done, not doing it properly is a choice. I need my lunch break, not just to eat but to stop being in a hyper-focused state. I know it can be done because I’ve done it. I have worked on shows that pay everyone well and get the work scheduled properly so you’re out in nine to 11 hours. If I miss a lunch break I’m up for hours after wrap because it’s just a non-stop job.
Reiko Porter
We have the support of political leaders, we have each other and we have a cause that cannot be argued. There aren’t two sides to this. We have the support of the DGA, WGA and SAG/AFTRA. I’m not afraid of a strike, there’s no fear in that for me, we will take care of each other to get through it financially.
Local 705 & Local 892
It is unfathomable to anyone in my life who does not work in the industry that yes, I am working 12 hours a day, not including the commute. I cry a lot on my morning commutes, I miss my son. I sometimes do not see my baby awake at all.
Costume Supervisor
I voted yes not just for my sake, but for the sake of every single person in this industry who’s forced to miss once-in-a-lifetime memories like weddings, funerals, recitals, births, and anything in between that frankly are more important than getting a couple extra takes in the can.
I voted yes because a studio or executive producer’s inability to properly budget a realistic delivery schedule that factors in the value of their crew is not my problem to solve anymore (or my misery to endure).
I voted yes to protect the underrepresented and underpaid entry-level crew working tirelessly to build their careers in Hollywood who even with extensive overtime cannot cover basic living expenses.
Sorry Hollywood, we’re not curing cancer here. Hollywood has indoctrinated us to believe we’re lucky to be here, but nope. Hollywood is lucky to have us. All of this for the sake of creating entertainment? Not anymore.
This strike is about lifting our union-kin. Even if the wages are fine for your craft, they are not for others.
I may not have been actively planning my own suicide, but I have found myself curled up in the fetal position for days at a time reciting to myself, “My family would be better off without me.” And I’ve worked so many 16-hour days straight without a single day off that I no longer wanted to live.
Local 705
We want to work, just under more sustainable conditions. I think that’s why there was such a resounding yes to the authorization. I think people know what to expect and are ready for it.
Local 892
I voted yes to authorize a strike because we are not expendable widgets, we are highly educated, experienced, and skilled craftspeople who deserve to be treated like human beings and valued for our expertise.
Jason B. McCann
Shannon Kenny
If we don’t say what we need we will keep breaking. The pandemic has reminded us we have a voice. Then to take those slowed down fragile minds and bodies right back to the normal we have all known — we are breaking. We all felt what sitting with our fragile human selves looked like. The pandemic across all industries brought out the need to find mental stability.
I'm single and that is a huge problem with the people who have been in the industry, there's no time to have a meaningful relationship.
Sara Escamilla
I voted yes to make it clear this version of “normal” is no longer acceptable, and we must redefine a new status quo not with small, incremental changes but instead transformational shifts in ideology about how we do business in the 21st century.
An overwhelming majority of film and TV workers have given the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees permission to strike if the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers doesn’t offer them a better deal.
Local 705
Amy Hartman
Local 871
It will be hard for a lot of people in this town, but I think that if we don't strike, then it will only get worse.
Local 871
Just this year I lost a good guy that was in Local 44 and 80, he died of an "undiagnosed heart condition" at age 42, and in my bones, it was due to the insane hours of work he put in, and the lack of time to get checked out by a doctor. Like every other member I've lost time with my wife and extended family and friends. I have lost friends well before their time. I have missed important events and had to prioritize our financial security over my personal well-being. I've driven home unsafe from the extended hours.
We need to be respected as an asset to the production.
I’ve attended multiple colleagues’ funerals who technically didn’t die on the job, but there’s no question the stress of the job killed them slowly over time.
Costume Department
Zak Knight
If a producer would follow me around for the day and understand all the challenges that I face, my talent, expertise, knowledge and experience, and that is worth more money than they get – nobody understands. They have absolutely no idea.
Strikes are damaging for everyone. As a 22-year veteran of the film industry, I've been through strikes. They are not easy and certainly this will hit my bottom line, but not nearly as much as it will impact me if we don't fight for these things right now. The goal of every employer is to get more for less, so sacrifices for our longevity need to happen now.

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