Negotiations for New Union Contracts in Hollywood: Focus on Pension and Health Funds

Negotiations for new union contracts in Hollywood are set to begin, focusing on fixing the pension and health funds impacted by last year's strikes. Stay tuned for the united front of below-the-line unions working together to tackle these issues and negotiate sustainable benefits. #HollywoodNegotiations

Negotiations for new union contracts in Hollywood are set to begin in early March, and it seems like the focus will be on fixing the pension and health funds. These poor funds were severely impacted by the writers and actors strikes last year. It’s like they were caught in the crossfire of a Hollywood battle, poor things.

But here’s where things get interesting. In a rather unusual move, all the “below the line” guilds, including IATSE, the Teamsters, and the other “Basic Crafts” unions, have decided to join forces and collectively bargain for the first week of talks in March. It’s like they’re forming a superhero team to tackle the mighty foes of health and pension issues. Avengers, assemble!

After this united front, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) will then proceed to negotiate separately on issues affecting its 13 West Coast locals. And in a classic case of “saving the best for last,” the Basic Crafts locals, including electricians, drivers, plasterers, laborers, and plumbers, will bring their issues to the bargaining table in early June. It’s like a well-choreographed dance of negotiations, with each group taking their turn to shine.

Now, don’t get too comfortable, because both contracts are set to expire on July 31. Unlike previous years, the unions have made it clear that they are not in the mood for extensions. Brace yourselves for some intense bargaining with the major studios, as both sides are still recovering from last year’s strikes. It’s like a high-stakes poker game, except the chips are the future of these guilds.

These below-the-line guilds are all part of the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans, which provide coverage for a whopping 75,000 active members and retirees. That’s a lot of people relying on these plans for their well-being. The problem is, when scripted production came to a screeching halt last year, the money flowing into these plans also dried up. It’s like the funds got caught in the Hollywood desert, desperately searching for an oasis of contributions.

But wait, there’s more! The plans also had to shell out a significant amount of money to extend health benefits to workers who lost qualifying hours due to the strikes. Talk about adding insult to injury. To help ease the burden, workers were graciously given no-cost COBRA insurance and allowed to withdraw up to $20,000 from their retirement accounts. It’s like a Hollywood version of a financial rollercoaster, with its ups and downs.

Mike Miller, an IATSE vice president, stated that the benefit plans are at the forefront of members’ minds. And rightly so, considering the rollercoaster ride they’ve been through. Despite the financial hits incurred last year, Miller believes that the funds spent to ensure continuity of workers’ health and retirement benefits were well worth it. It’s like investing in a Hollywood blockbuster that will keep the crew happy and secure.

Now, here’s an interesting twist. The unions want to increase the funding from streaming shows into these plans. After all, below-the-line workers don’t get residuals like those fancy actors, but employers do pay the equivalent of a residual into the benefit plans. It’s like a secret treasure trove waiting to be tapped into.

In addition to securing funding, the unions are also determined to prevent any cutbacks in health coverage. It’s like fighting tooth and nail to protect the fortress of good healthcare, refusing to let any sneaky cutbacks breach its walls.

Believe it or not, this united front of below-the-line unions negotiating these issues together hasn’t happened since 1988. It’s like a blast from the past, a rare sighting that makes this negotiation season extra special.

So, let’s see what this season of negotiations brings us. Will the pension and health funds rise from the ashes, stronger and more robust? Will the unions successfully negotiate sustainable benefits for their members? Only time will tell, but one thing’s for sure: behind-the-scenes crews have come together in historic fashion, like a Hollywood crew working on a blockbuster, to tackle these challenges head-on. And with a little bit of luck and a sprinkling of Hollywood magic, they just might come out on top. Stay tuned for more drama, more negotiations, and hopefully, a happy ending for all. Lights, camera, action!

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