By Mike Reynolds

Hollywood seems to like sequels on small and large screens, but 2024 may see a very different kind of sequel — and not a very pleasant one, at that — off screen, in the form of another strike if the industry’s below-the-line workers don’t get what they want. Everyone is hoping for a quick and positive resolution that would prevent another strike, which could be devastating for all concerned, especially in the areas of domestic and international content sales.

The concerns began on Sunday, March 3, with chants of “Nothing moves without the crew,” at an overflow meeting dubbed The “Many Crafts, One Fight” rally in an Encino, California park (which was also live-streamed online). Attendees called for a strike if needs were not met on several issues, including rest, safety, compensation, benefits, and health and pension issues during contract negotiations set to start the next day (Monday March 4) with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) and representatives of a number of below-the-line workers.

Members of unions involved in the demonstration included IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees), the union for crew workers; IBEW Local 40 (electrical); Local 724, LiUNA! (the Laborers International Union of North America); Local 755, OPCMIA (plasterers, sculptors, shop hands); Teamsters Local 399 (animal handlers and trainers, casting, couriers, dispatchers, drivers, locations, mechanics, warehousemen, and wranglers); and UA Local 78 (plumbers).

Also in attendance, bearing signs and showing support, were members of SAG-AFTRA (actors) and the WGA (writers), the latter having received great support from the Teamsters last year from the very start of their strike.

Yvonne Wheeler, the L.A. County Federation of Labor president, suggested that the AMPTP should, “hear us loud and clear! These workers may work below the line but that doesn’t mean their wages and benefits should be near the poverty line.”

Teamsters’ national president Sean O’ Brien put it another way and didn’t mince words by calling AMPTP entities, “the white-collar crime syndicate.”

Lindsay Dougherty, Hollywood Teamsters head, adamantly told the gathering, “We will strike if we have to!” O’Brien added that after the 2023 writers’ and actors’ strikes had put many crew members out of work, “it’s time to make them [AMPTP] aware that if they thought they had a fight last summer, they can’t even predict what they have now,” explaining that “we are desperate — and being desperate is great. It means we don’t care about consequences for our actions.”

The contract negotiations began on Monday, March 4 and went until Thursday evening, March 7, with a larger group of union representatives than one might have expected taking part in the talks. In fact this is the largest group of below-the-line craft groups that have united on contract issues in more than 36 years. All parties have made it clear that there will be a media blackout throughout the negotiations — a similar action utilized in 2023’s WGA, SAG-AFTRA, and DGA strike talks. As with those demands last year, streaming residuals are on the table, along with the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans, as well as how to deal with AI.

The week of March 11 will see separate guild meetings to discuss the issues and then put them together for presentation at the resumption of overall talks with the AMPTP on March 18.

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