NM film industry braces for Monday strike - Albuquerque Journal

NM film industry braces for Monday strike

Michael Mando as Nacho Varga and Steven Bauer as Don Eladio in a scene from the fifth season of “Better Call Saul.” A strike by union members will affect productions in New Mexico if the matter is not resolved by Monday. (Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The show may not go on.

Matthew Loeb, international president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, announced Wednesday that, unless an agreement is reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, 60,000-plus union members will begin a nationwide strike on Monday.

The strike would affect thousands of New Mexicans who work in and with the movie and television industry, including three unions – Locals 480, 600 and 800 – that are active in the state.

“This will impact the approximately 2,000 IATSE workers in New Mexico Locals 480, 600 and 800 who are called to strike … unless an agreement is reached by then,” said Liz Pecos, president of IATSE Local 480.

“There are currently nine active productions shooting in the state, and the strike would impact seven … of those productions,” she said. “If the strike occurs, it would effectively halt production on the majority of shows shooting in New Mexico, further impacting the thousands of other motion picture and television workers in the state.”

That includes, but is not limited to, the Directors Guild of America; the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; Teamsters; production assistants; background artists; “and the many vendors that are directly sustained or supported by the film industry of New Mexico,” Pecos said.

Loeb said the union will continue bargaining with producers this week in the hopes of reaching an agreement that addresses such core issues as rest periods, meal breaks and a “living wage” for those on the bottom of the wage scale.

“However, the pace of bargaining doesn’t reflect any sense of urgency,” Loeb said. “Without an end date, we could keep talking forever. Our members deserve to have their basic needs addressed now.”

Last week, IATSE members who work in television and film production at 36 IATSE local unions across the country voted to authorize the union’s international president to call a strike if negotiations didn’t result in a new contract for 60,000 film and television workers nationwide.

Voter turnout was 90%, with 98.6% of those members voting in support of authorizing a strike.

In New Mexico, IATSE Local 480 members had a 93% vote return and 99% approval to authorize a strike. According to the union’s website, Local 480 “represents professional film technicians working ‘below-the-line’ on TV and movie productions in the state of New Mexico.”

The New Mexico film industry is coming off a record-breaking fiscal year, with $623 million in what is known as a “direct spend” to the state.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the film industry broke the record $525.5 million that was set in fiscal year 2019. In fiscal year 2020, the film industry had a direct spend of $386.8 million.

Attributing to the record-breaking year in New Mexico are the film partnerships with NBCUniversal and Netflix. Both entities have signed a 10-year commitment to bring film and TV projects to the state.

For more than a decade, New Mexico’s film incentive package has been seen as the gold standard in the industry. The package offers a 25% to 35% refundable tax credit on New Mexico goods and services, according to the Film Office’s website.

Last week, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the state’s thriving film and television industry is driven by the nation’s “best and hardest-working crew base.”

She said New Mexico is a “pro-union state” and the state stands with workers seeking to improve their conditions.

“The women and men of IATSE 480 make the magic happen; they are the heart and soul of every production that is filmed here, and they are one of the key reasons that productions and production companies that choose New Mexico come back, and choose New Mexico again and again,” Lujan Grisham said in the statement. “I stand with workers who seek dignity and safety in their workplaces and the assurance of a living wage – the kind of wage that allows someone who works a full day and a full week, or beyond, to lead a happy and healthy life. I extend my support to the members of IATSE 480 in their negotiation with industry management, and I hope for a productive dialogue with a swift and satisfying resolution.”

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