Crew union IATSE and the bargaining representative for commercial production and postproduction companies, the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, have inked a neutrality agreement for organizing production workers on TV commercials.
The grassroots group Stand With Production, which has collaborated with IATSE on the organizing campaign, announced the deal to its supporters in an email on Friday, and IATSE confirmed the news. A neutrality agreement essentially means that the employer (in this case, the AICP) agrees not to resist a union drive being spearheaded by Stand With Production and IATSE.
“AICP can confirm that it has entered into a Neutrality Agreement with IATSE,” the organization said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “AICP has agreed that if it is truly the will of our trusted employees to be represented by a union for their engagement, then we will engage in negotiations to attempt to find reasonable terms of employment.”
In this case, the AICP also agreed as part of the deal to voluntarily recognize the union if the group collects a majority of union cards, in a process overseen by a third-party arbitrator. Production workers on TV commercials will need to have worked two jobs in the last 12 months to be eligible to sign cards.
“The AICP has signed a neutrality agreement concerning Stand With Production, finally giving freelance TV commercial production workers nationwide a fair opportunity to democratically decide whether we want a union for ourselves,” Stand With Production told supporters on Friday. “In other words, we are NOW closer than ever to opening the pathway to basic standards afforded to our unionized co-workers. With your support, we can seize this unprecedented opportunity and get to work building a better, safer, more sustainable industry, together.”
The deal between the two parties quells tensions that erupted when a group of production workers announced their intention to unionize with IATSE in July. Later that month, AICP president and CEO Matt Miller wrote in a letter to AICP members that the “AICP strongly believes that a unionization effort among freelance production employees will harm those individuals it claims it will help.” Miller went on to say that the Stand With Production group was using “false messaging” and “exaggerated examples” and that its messages were “designed to apply pressure” to gig workers to join the movement. (IATSE director of communications Jonas Loeb shot back, “It’s unfortunate but laughably predictable to see the same cookie cutter union-busting talking points we’ve seen for decades.”)
Stand With Production, a group that began gathering after two production workers walked off a major commercial shoot in the fall of 2021, is seeking to unionize production assistants, assistant production supervisors, production supervisors, line producers and bidding producers on TV commercials nationwide. They’ve called for longer rest periods, safety training, higher minimum wage rates, union health and pension plans and diversity and mentorship initiatives.
“The pandemic has really shown us all the cracks in our system,” Stand With Production supporter and line producer Josh Jupiter previously told The Hollywood Reporter. He added that a union could enforce “respect for time and being realistic about what we as humans are capable of doing with our time.”