ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Come Monday, the word ‘action’ will have a different meaning for those in the film industry. A major union in the industry says it will go on strike on Monday if production studios don’t meet their demands for improving work conditions. The impact will be felt in the film industry in the state.
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The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE, represents behind-the-scene workers who build sets, work on sound, and people like Sheila Trujillo. She’s a make-up artist and a 17-year union member and says the working conditions aren’t working.
“At 12:01 if a deal has not been met then we officially go on strike,” said Trujillo. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s downright borderline abusive.”
Trujillo said they’re often working 16 hour days, seven-day weeks, and don’t get breaks during the workday. IATSE is working to make a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for better work conditions. IASTE has three different groups locally in New Mexico, including IATSE 480.
“This boils down to some core issues. It’s about rest during the day and meal breaks during the day. It’s about minimum rest during the night. We’re asking for a 10 hour minimum break between shifts. We’re asking for a weekend so we can spend time with our families. We are asking for livable wages,” said Liz Pecos, president of the IASTE 480 chapter in New Mexico.
Nationally, with 90% voter turnout, 98.6% of union members approved a strike. In New Mexico, turnout was 99% and 93% approved a strike. If a deal isn’t made with major studios on Monday, they will go on strike. Pecos said that would halt seven of the nine productions currently being filmed in the state and impact about 2,000 IATSE union members in New Mexico
“Bottom line, we don’t want to strike. We want to make motion picture and television. We want to work,” said Pecos. “So that’s our hope… is that we can continue to do that now and well into the future. We are hopeful a deal can be reached by Sunday evening. If not, we are mobilized and we are energized and very united and ready to strike and ready to do what it takes to get that fair deal and fair contract.”
For Trujillo, not knowing how long a strike can last or what other jobs she may look for to get by can be daunting, but not as daunting as the status quo.
“It’s scary, It’s a scary thought. But I think it’s a risk that we all have to take. because what we do now is going to affect us for years to come,” Trujillo said. “I just feel like if we don’t take the opportunity now to fix it, it’s going to get worse.”
IATSE is also asking streaming services to no longer be considered ‘new media.’ Pecos said those companies like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, are not new anymore and are proving to be financially successful. She said by removing the ‘new media’ label, union members can ask for livable wages and benefits like affordable healthcare.
KRQE News 13 reached out to Netflix for comment but did not hear back. The New Mexico Film Office sent the following statement via email:
“The film and television industry is a key sector of New Mexico’s economy, which is driven by thousands of New Mexicans who make up the nation’s best and hardest-working crew base. New Mexico’s crew is the heart and soul of each production filmed in our state. We stand with workers seeking to protect the safety of one another, improve the conditions of their employment, and who fight for the collective benefit of their colleagues. Supporting our crew is essential to carrying this thriving industry into the future. We hope that an agreement between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) can be reached swiftly and the issues at hand are resolved so that this thriving industry benefiting so many New Mexicans and New Mexico communities can continue operating.”