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Hollywood gears up for another labor battle

Illustration of the Hollywood Walk of Fame with one of the stars as a closed fist with a "no" icon

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Hollywood could have yet another labor battle on its hands as it starts contract talks with the unions that represent so-called below-the-line workers.

Why it matters: The mere threat of another labor stoppage not even four months after last year's actors and writers strikes is the kind of sequel nobody wants.

State of play: Talks between the studios — once again led by the AMPTP, and IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) and the Hollywood Basic Crafts, the two unions leading the negotiations — began Monday.

  • All told, the current labor contract that expires July 31 covers multiple unions made up of more than 170,000 crew members and support staff. These jobs include hair and makeup stylists, costume designers and craft services, among many others.
  • Despite the six-month stoppage that halted all film and TV production last year, below-the-line workers have signaled their readiness to go on strike.

Flashback: The last round of talks between studios and crew members almost resulted in a strike but was saved with an 11th-hour deal in 2021.

Between the lines: Signs of general union progress are in the air, specifically when it comes to a series of announcements from Starbucks and its labor battle over the last few weeks.

  • A labor-backed investor group on Tuesday bowed out of a boardroom fight it waged against Starbucks, but that was after a major deal was struck last week between the coffee chain and its Workers United union.

Zoom in: For the entertainment industry, union rhetoric is already getting heated.

  • During a rally Sunday in Los Angeles ahead of Monday's talks, Sean O'Brien, the national president of the Teamsters, described the studios as a "white-collar crime syndicate."
  • In separate remarks, per The Hollywood Reporter, Lorena Gonzalez, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, led the crowd in a chant of "f--- around and find out."

The bottom line: Hollywood can't afford another work stoppage, and both sides of the negotiating table know it.

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