IATSE, the union representing below-the-line production workers from cinematographers and editors to grips and hair stylists, has moved a crucial step closer to its first strike since 1945. In a strike vote with over 90% turnout, over 98% of members agreed to authorize union leadership to call a strike if negotiations fail.

Although wage increases are definitely on the table, especially for the lowest-paid job categories, working conditions have emerged as the top priority. Long hours, short turnaround times and interrupted meal breaks have crew members at the breaking point. A strike would involve some 60,000 workers in Los Angeles and around the country.

The majority of theatrical and television productions for broadcast, cable and streaming exhibition would be affected, but some productions are under different IATSE contracts that have not expired. These include commercials, productions subject to the Low Budget Agreement, and those under the Pay TV Agreement, which covers HBO, Showtime, Starz and Cinemax. Some post-production facilities have separate agreements with the Motion Pictures Editors Guild (Local 700). The Animation Guild (Local 839) also negotiates separately from the IA as a whole; its agreement has currently been extended from July until October 30.

With an overwhelming strike authorization in hand, IATSE leadership can return to the bargaining table with the leverage it hoped for.