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Film strike looms as workers vote on authorization

Workers want pay bumps from streaming sites, more predictable hours on set

ATLANTA — Production companies could know Monday if a union representing workers will authorize a strike that could shut down the movie industry. 

That would be a big deal in Georgia, which has welcomed the film industry with a generous tax credit, creating thousands of jobs.  

The strike authorization vote itself would not bring movie production to a halt here in Georgia, but it would be an important first step

According to longtime sound tech Cujo Cooley, the on-set hours are brutal.

"I work an average of twelve to fourteen hours a day, every single day, six days a week," Cooley explained. "It is absolutely one hundred percent normal for film workers to work 70 to 80 hours a week every single week."

Cooley says a strike would shut down productions across North America.

Currently, there are roughly 50 movies in production in Georgia, including a whodunit for Netflix, called "Reptile," starring Justin Timberlake, right in Buckhead.

Cooley said workers have been discounting work for Netflix and other streaming services because years ago, they were considered experimental or "new media." But, according to him, "that time has passed." 

Union officials argue streaming services are among the industry giants. Twelve years ago, stage workers gave streaming services flexibility in their pay structures. Now their union said, “not-so-new media doesn’t need a worker subsidy.” It wants services like Netflix to pay workers the same as the big traditional studios.

Cooley said nobody in the IATSE union representing film production workers is "jumping up and down and rejoicing over the possibility of a strike."

However, he said the issue of pay and working hours is important. 

"I’m going to vote yes on the strike authorization, but I do not want to go on strike," Cooley said. 

If the union authorizes a strike, talks between the two sides would likely continue. But it would also add a sense of urgency to the talks - with the threat of a shutdown looming.