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What’s the Strikelihood?: Backpedaling Towards Another Labor Stoppage

Photo by Jonny Clow / Unsplash

We wrote our last issue about the impending labor fight and what the potential overall IATSE and Teamster deals could look like. You can see an overview of the key issues and our predictions for deal terms here.

Now for the question making everyone nervous: Will there be another strike? What’s the “strikelihood”? 

The current labor deals expire July 31, and IATSE, Teamsters 399, and Hollywood Basic Crafts are bargaining jointly on umbrella terms like healthcare and pensions. Locals are handling their specific issues with the AMPTP directly, two at a time.

10 of the 13 IATSE locals have already reached agreement on their local-specific issues. Even so, it’s likely the unions will ask their members to authorize a strike in late spring to use as a bargaining weapon. 

Will a strike be authorized? What’s the appetite after the 2023 "above the line" strikes? 

IATSE chief Matthew Loeb has talked about the strike as a tool, but “security” has been his main theme. Lindsay Dougherty of the Teamsters may be the opposite; we have heard it suggested that she would embrace a strike based on her fiery speeches on behalf of WGA and SAG-AFTRA last year. It remains to be seen if the Teamsters would go it alone if IATSE settles.

Will membership agree? Maybe, but this isn’t 2021. When the IATSE asked membership to authorize a strike while negotiating their 2021 deal, 89% of members voted and 98% of them voted yes. But that was during COVID and membership hadn’t spent half a year without pay during the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. The work hasn’t recovered, and neither have members’ bank accounts or union funds. 

Our prediction? Strikes are authorized again. Teamsters vote and ratify first by a wider margin, following their leadership’s cues. IATSE may be along for the ride, and will also ratify, but by a slimmer margin. 

If so, will a coordinated “below the line” strike actually happen?

Our guess is yes, but shorter than WGA or SAG. Between already-completed projects and those in post that are close to done, studios and producers will have some cushion. For others, we’ll see them:

  • Use AI tools to complete more projects. Tougher now with the actors’ recently secured protections against use of their likeness, but doable with consent. 
  • Move more projects overseas.

Michael Maizner, a management-side labor relations attorney specializing in the entertainment industry, said he is already seeing increased activity from production companies negotiating to move their productions internationally. “The unions’ leverage is only so powerful; nothing prevents producers from looking to produce outside the country,” he said. (See our review of what producers should be thinking about when producing outside the U.S.)

We’d guess it comes to a head in the fall. Union membership won’t have the same patience (or money) as they did in 2023. If so, they’ll likely get the deals done by October. 

Maizner had a similar assessment: “The union members can’t be sidelined for weeks and months. There just isn’t the money there to support these groups. I can’t see it going terribly long if they do strike.

We’ll be on the labor beat until a deal gets done and beyond. Tell us what else you want to hear about at