“They Should Fear Us”: Teamsters & IATSE Link Arms For March Contract Talks With Studios

No one has said the word “strike” yet, but some of Hollywood’s strongest unions just flexed some serious muscle with the studios.

With their current contracts set to end on July 21, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Teamsters Local 399 will stand in together in solidarity in upcoming negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The sit-down with the Carol Lombardini-led AMPTP will begin March 4, sources tell Deadline.

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Certain to set the stage for what could be another year of Tinseltown labor anxiety, IATSE and the Teamsters will be joined in talks on their shared Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan proposals by fellow Hollywood Basic Crafts groups the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 40 (IBEW), Laborers International Union of North America Local 724 (LiUNA!), United Association Plumbers Local 78 (UA) and Operating Plasterers & Cement Masons International Association (OPCMIA) Local 755.

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While IATSE and the Hollywood Basic Crafts still will conduct their own negotiations with the AMPTP over local-specific issues, the union of the unions over healthcare and pensions is a big blunt object against the studios. It’s a weapon intended to show that the AMPTP’s old divide-and-conquer tactics won’t have much traction this year.

In fact, coming off the bitter WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes of last year, and the sweet updated deal the favored-nation DGA scored earlier this month with the studios, that’s the point of today’s linked-arms move.

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“Our members are the backbone of production,” Lindsay Dougherty, Principal Officer of Teamsters Local 399 and Chairperson of Hollywood Basic Crafts, made clear Wednesday as the unions address topics “additional streaming-based funding mechanisms for the plans” and fending off any cuts. “They give their blood, sweat and tears to this industry.

Dougherty added: “They are owed the ability to retire with dignity and have the stability of plan funding to protect and increase benefits. Fighting alongside IATSE on shared MPIPHP benefits will not only support all Hollywood crewmembers but also remind the employers that when they can’t divide us, they should fear us. Nothing moves without the crew.”

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To put some numbers to those crew, the Matthew Loeb-run IATSE represents 170,000 technicians, artisans and craftspeople in North America. With 1.3 million members nationwide, the Teamsters have 6,500 members in Local 399. The other Hollywood Basic Crafts have a combined 1,500 members. So do the math: That’s 178,000 union members sitting at the table at the AMPTP’s Sherman Oaks offices.

All things considered, in the first such united front by the unions in 25 years, maybe the studios should be a little scared.

If you didn’t pick up what Dougherty just put down, consider what IATSE’s Loeb told CES on January 9 during a panel with other Hollywood labor leaders: “Nothing’s off the table, and we’re not going to give up our strength and our ability because they sapped us. Everybody’s bank account got sapped because they were unreasonable for months and months. My folks aren’t going to just settle.”

Last week, the Hollywood guilds presented another kind of united front in backing  the American Federation of Musicians in its current talks with the AMPTP.

In the greater context, today’s long-whispered announcement of the upcoming joint talks comes as Donald Trump sat down with Teamsters brass in D.C. in a Hail Mary move to get the union’s 2024 endorsement. With a standing invite to do the same, President Joe Biden hasn’t yet spoken with the Teamster leadership in the same format. Having received the support of the United Auto Workers on January 24, it’s likely just a matter of time until union-friendly Biden breaks bread with the Teamsters.

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