In a stunningly close vote, the labor agreement negotiated by the leaders of IATSE and AMPTP was ratified last weekend. The deal was approved despite the fact that a majority of union members voted against it, by a margin of 50.4% to 49.6%. Nonetheless, the measure passed because of ITASE’s electoral college system, in which each of IATSE’s 13 member unions is credited with a certain number of delegates. Two of the three largest unions, Prop Local 44 and Editors Local 700, voted narrowly in favor of the agreement, each by margins of only a few hundred votes. Their approval, together with that of six smaller unions, was the deciding factor leading to a final delegate count of 256 for and 188 against. The proposed contract would have been rejected if the vote from either Local 44 or Local 700 had swung to reject it.
Despite the fact that IATSE leadership had emphasized “solidarity” throughout the negotiations, this outcome has proven to be deeply divisive. Crystal Hopkins, the head of Script Supervisors Local 871, resigned after the vote was finalized, citing her dissatisfaction with this outcome. “When we began negotiating in May…. the solidarity and unity never wavered,” said Hopkins. “However, by the time October rolled around… the overwhelming and historic response of the membership for the strike authorization made clear to me that the priorities we were addressing were no longer adequate for the membership.” Even though IATSE’s President Mathew Loeb was able to avert a strike by negotiating an agreement with the studios and securing a YES vote from the rank and file, he now faces the challenge of uniting a bitterly divided membership, half of whom are disappointed with their new agreement.