A wide swathe of the American entertainment industry is getting ready to go on strike, protesting against unfair and unsafe working conditions. They’re represented by IATSE, a union with around 150,000 members covering behind-the-scenes jobs like editors, costumers, hairstylists, lighting technicians, and cinematographers.
IATSE’s main bargaining issues involve pensions, health plans, wage increases, and “substantial improvements in rest periods.” Many entertainment workers are allegedly dangerously exhausted by long work days, a common refrain on the Instagram account @ia_stories, where insiders are sharing horror stories about their alleged working environment. A typical anonymous post describes working 15-hour days, seven days a week as the assistant to “an emotionally abusive egomaniacal actress,” resulting in a breakdown.
The account rapidly gained traction over the past few weeks, allowing people in the industry to share their alleged experiences of bad bosses, unbearable hours, and dangerous workplaces.
Other posts talk about falling asleep at the wheel while driving home after long days. One person said she had to leave her job on a major movie because she wasn’t allowed time off for a mastectomy. An assistant camera person writes, “I have regularly asked my doctor to prescribe me extra antibiotics for UTIs that I get from not being able to use the bathroom frequently enough.”
These stories tell a tale of widespread burnout, with major studios like Disney being accused of underpaying its workers, and managers being accused of forcing people to come in for habitual 15-hour days that leave them too exhausted to do anything apart from drive home and fall asleep. There’s a sense that higher-ups in the industry just don’t care about the wellbeing of everyday workers. But some prominent people are voicing support for a potential IATSE strike, including actor Bradley Whitford, comedy writer Ashley Nicole Black, and writer/producer Tze Chun.
Right now IATSE is negotiating with producers for better working conditions, but the negotiations aren’t going well, hence the drastic measures. On Monday the union announced that it was ready for a strike, meaning that if IATSE members vote to go ahead, much of the entertainment industry will grind to a halt.
The Daily Dot has reached out to IATSE and @ia_stories.
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*First Published: Sep 22, 2021, 7:19 am CDT
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor