LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees began voting Friday on a proposed contract agreement with producers, with union President Matthew Loeb urging his rank-and-file to approve the tentative three-year deal that was reached last month just as the union was prepared to go on strike.
"You now have the opportunity to vote on the new terms of your contract," Loeb wrote to members in a letter posted on the union's website. "I recommend you carefully review the information on the new agreement and vote in favor of its ratification."
Voting will take place throughout the weekend, with polls closing at 8:59 p.m. Sunday. The results are set to be announced Monday.
Online voting will cover a pair of contract proposals — the basic agreement and an area standards agreement applying largely to workers outside the Los Angeles area.
The two agreements cover about 60,000 film and TV workers nationwide combined.
When the main contract agreement was announced last month, the union said it includes 3% annual wage hikes, improvements in pay and conditions on streaming productions, observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and a rest period of 10 hours between daily shoots and 54 hours on weekends.
Ratification voting will be conducted online among the union's 13 locals on the West Coast, for the basic agreement, and with 23 locals elsewhere on the area standards agreement.
There have been rumblings that some members remain unhappy with the proposed contract and could vote against it.
On Thursday, about two dozen IATSE workers and supporters gathered outside the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood to express their opposition to the proposed contract. Some said it does not sufficiently improve working conditions, particularly in regard to long hours and on-set safety.
Some cited the recent accidental shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie "Rust" as an example of the dangers crew members can face.
"Incremental change has brought us to where we are today, and it's just not enough," Desmond O'Regan — a propmaker and one of the organizers of Thursday's rally — told the Los Angeles Times. "We have folks dying on set from obvious safety issues like what happened most recently with Halyna. ... We have a lot of safety issues that are exacerbated by long hours."
But Loeb hailed the proposed pact when the tentative deal was reached and reiterated that position in his letter to members this week.
"This agreement, and the contract campaign before it, should serve as a model for other workers in the entertainment and tech industries, for workers employed by gaming companies and for so-called `gig workers.' ... We're the original gig workers," Loeb said when the tentative deal was announced.
He added this week: "Throughout these difficult negotiations, we remained steadfast and resolved in our determination to achieve a contract that is fair and works for the members," he wrote.
"Broadly, our proposals focused on improving working conditions and rates of pay generally, with a particular emphasis on streaming productions, and on maintaining existing health and retirement benefits.
Members of the union had overwhelmingly authorized Loeb to call a strike if a deal had not been reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The tentative agreement was reached within days of a potential walkout.