Why Workers Want to Join IATSE – The Hollywood Reporter
On Wednesday night, a worker-run Twitter account broke the silence on a roughly two-and-a-half-year organizing effort to organize music supervisors across the country.
Stating that music supervisors — the creatives who select music and/or facilitate the creation of music that appears in movies and TV shows and negotiate its use — were trying to form a union, the @MusicNeedsSupes account said, “We we are one of the rare actors of the cinema and the television who do not obtain the rights of the workers within the framework of our profession. The account urged users to “stand with our community” after the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which negotiates on behalf of major streamers and studios with labor groups, “denied our request to grant equal rights”.
The tweet referenced a communication from the AMPTP earlier Wednesday, refusing to voluntarily acknowledge the group, according to the main union of entertainment crews IATSE, which supports music supervisors. This decision could lead to an upcoming election for union representation on the National Labor Relations Board. (The workers’ group hopes the AMPTP will change course and negotiate with them, but will file for an election if they don’t; The Hollywood Reporter has contacted the AMPTP for comment.)
Today, the IATSE says that 75% of the approximately 500 music supervisors actively working in the United States have signed union authorization cards. The very week they revealed their union effort, music supervisors supporting the effort spoke to THR how they got there and why they believe unionization is a necessary step. “We’re just asking for fairness and we want to be treated the same as everyone we work with in production,” says music supervisor Michelle Silverman, who has worked on titles like Aquaman and Mayans MC
While music supervisors have been discussing the union option for years, the pandemic has kick-started IATSE’s organizing drive. In the spring of 2020, many people in the field realized that they were not eligible for unemployment benefits, as the majority of artisans are independent contractors and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which sought to provide unemployment to independent contractors and auto-entrepreneurs. salaried workers, began accepting applications in California in late April 2020. (Mixed-income earners, who receive both W-2 and 1099 incomes, were initially disqualified from the PUA and received a small unemployment until Congress passes a relief package in December 2020.) Additionally, the lack of union-provided health care benefits for music supervisors set off alarm bells as COVID began to spread to the United States. “Panic set in,” says music supervisor Madonna Wade-Reed (Batwoman, Reign). “The biggest catalyst was like, oh my God, people are going to lose their homes, people are going to get sick and they don’t have insurance. Enough is enough.”
A group of music supervisors approached IATSE, which they said would be a good fit partly because the union represents music editors, who work closely with music supervisors, through its Local 700 Motion Picture Editors. Guild. In the interest of organizing music supervisors nationwide, organizers then attempted to identify as many people actively working in the role as they could find. “It was huge months[-long] effort, between research, reaching out to our community, having these conversations, asking what was important to them, and then once we identified that list, of course, getting all the [union authorization] signed cards,” says music supervisor Jennifer Smith (Why women kill, behind the music).
Organizers say they hope a union could address multiple concerns. Wade-Reed says she wants more regulation of work hours and the establishment of fixed pay rates that reflect a music supervisor’s actual work time, while Smith adds that final payments – usually made after the end and airing of a project – can, under the current system, occur several months after consumers have seen the title and at unexpected times. The group wants a union pension and health care, contractual overtime, union leave, protections for rest periods and a union to contact if they have workplace concerns.
Music Supervisor Manish Raval (Willow, it’s us), who also works as a union music editor, says he is baffled by the difference in oversight between his two roles. “As a music publisher, I submit my scorecard on a Friday and have a check in hand the following Thursday. It’s automatic,” he says. a project and your money is due, sometimes you have to wait a month, two months I recently got a check for something six months after I finished the project… Which is even more infuriating when you realize that it It’s just because it’s not enforced and we’re not protected.
Union supporters say their craft is growing, in part because of the explosion of film and TV content resulting from the streaming wars, and a union could lower the barrier to entry for those hoping to break into the field. “Who can afford to do this job?” Smith asks. Raval adds that recent media coverage of the music supervisors’ work — stories reporting the massive boost in streams for Kate Bush’s 1985 single “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” thanks to an appearance on stranger things season four, or the glowing cover of EuphoriaThe soundtrack for its second season and how it fits into the show’s creative vision – speaks to “the importance of what we do”.
“People think we’re song pickers – no,” Wade-Reed says. “We write original music, we have it recorded, we oversee it when we’re on set.” She adds, “And the more we do and get involved, the more we really get energized by the importance we should have of fairness with everyone else we work side-by-side with.”