Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


In 2021, the Hollywood guild International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) negotiated a new contract with Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). IATSE had enjoyed a relatively peaceful labor existence in its 128 years. However, after negotiations with AMPTP stalled in 2021, IATSE held a vote to strike. The IATSE voters authorized a strike if negotiations did not produce an agreement.

If IATSE had initiated a strike, productions would have effectively shut down. If Hollywood productions shut down, the industry would suffer millions in lost profits, employees would risk an unpaid strike, and viewers would likely see a decrease in content produced. IATSE and AMPTP eventually came to an agreement and avoided a strike in November 2021. But even with a new agreement some IATSE members remain unhappy. This Article analyzes the underlying issues which contributed to the stalled negotiations and subsequent 2021 labor unrest between IATSE and AMPTP. The main root cause of the labor unrest was a breakdown in negotiations between AMPTP and IATSE. This breakdown stems from three core underlying issues: (1) the working conditions for IATSE members; (2) the impact COVID-19 had on productions and the subsequent backlog of projects; and (3) new media pressures on producing large quantities of content for viewers forced to stay home, along with the lower payments IATSE members received on new media projects compared to traditional productions. Some of these issues existed independently from each other. However, this Article shows that these three underlying issues combined to create the labor unrest of 2021.

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