Death of IATSE Crew Member as Talks Near Thurs Deadline – IATSE Members Upset over Union Transparency – Nick Saban Askes UAW Ally to Take Down Ad

Over 60,000 IATSE workers are debating whether to strike as a key contract deadline passes on Thursday (The Hollywood Reporter)


Greetings from Pittsburgh, where we are closely monitoring today with both the Alabama Mercedes Union drive, a firing during Hyundai union drive, and the escalating fight at IATSE. 

Donate to help us cover both national fights. 

Death of IATSE Crew Member as Talks Near Thursday Deadline

Representing approximately 60,000 film and television crew leaders, union leaders appear, by most accounts, to be making steady progress with the studio association AMPTP. IATSE leaders have indicated a deadline of Thursday to settle on basic agreement terms. 

There is a lot of anxiety over whether more than 50,000 film and television workers, members of IATSE, will go on strike. In 2021, union members prepared to strike, only to settle for a contract that was narrowly passed by a margin of 50.3%-to-49.6%.

IATSE rank-and-file workers have been upset with the lack of transparency from their union. From Deadline: 

On Friday, IATSE said in a memo that the week’s proposals included AI, wages and working conditions, subcontracting, the Videotape Agreement and Side Letters — but it failed to give details on any of those potential deal points.

A union source tells Deadline that “AI discussions have been productive, but there’s still work to be done.”

While all indications seem positive, rank-and-file members appear to be disgruntled with a lack of information surrounding the negotiations. The petition argues “most IATSE members still aren’t being given detailed information about their local’s contract proposals and the AMPTP’s counter-proposals.”

Concerns about the state of this year’s negotiations have been on the minds of members as well as IATSE leadership, sources have confirmed. Specifically, union officials desperately want to avoid the close vote and divisions that scarred the last contract ratification.

For more, check out Deadline. 

The large and popular Caucus of Rank-and-File Entertainment Workers (CREW) has a full list of updates on its website. 

IATSE Crew Member Dies Falling Asleep At Wheel After Back-to-Back 14-hour Days 

Bargaining could also be affected by the recent death of a 66-year-old IATSE union member, Rico Priem, on Saturday morning.  Priem was working as a day player on the ABC series “9-1-1,” and had worked two 14-hour days in a row, a union official told Variety, when he died in a car accident. 

Priem’s death mirrors the 1997 death of Brent Hershman, the second assistant cameraman on the film Pleasantville, who died after falling asleep at the wheel after a 19-hour day, which had been preceded by four 15-hour days. The impact of Hershman’s death led two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Welxer to direct the 2006 documentary Who Needs Sleep, which is available to watch on YouTube.

Priem’s death follows the February death of  J.C. “Spike” Osorio, a lighting worker who fell from the rafters on the Marvel’s Wonder Man set.

Priem died on what’s infamously referred to as “Fraturday” when TV producers make union members work long into the night to wrap shooting. The death has angered many union members, demanding that IATSE deliver on expanding protections against unsafe overtime. 

“We are fully committed to the safety and the well-being of all our members and express our heartfelt condolences to the member’s family,” IATSE said in a statement. “Workers have a reasonable expectation that they can get to work and come home safely. No one should be put in unsafe circumstances while trying to earn a living”.

Donate to Help to Cover IATSE Contract Talks as Deadline Near & Alabama Mercedes UAW

Since the near IATSE strike in 2021, Payday has thoroughly covered the rank-and-file rebellion within the major Hollywood unions.  (Read our most recent in-depth analysis on how over 8,000 entertainment workers joined unions during the 206 days of strikes in Hollywood last year)

While covering the Alabama Mercedes vote this week, we will also closely monitor the IATSE contract in the newsletter.

Donate to help us pay for overtime covering both the IATSE contract struggle and the Mercedes UAW election.

Nick Sabian Walks Back “Pro-UAW” Comments 

Seven-time College National Football Championship winner Nick Saban, who coached Alabama for 16 years, has asked the UAW to take down an ad that features Saban praising the UAW while advocating for college football players’ right to unions. 

“It never scares me that people are organized. General Motors and the automotive industry has had unions for a long time, and they’ve survived, fairly well I think,” Saban says in a pro-union ad run by the pro-union group More Perfect Union.  “There’s been a lot of businesses that have been successful and worked with unions for many, many years. So I’m not anti-union. Unionize it, make it like the NFL.”

Saban has denounced the group by asking them to take down the ad. 

“I do not personally endorse the UAW or its campaign and have asked the UAW to remove any advertisements featuring me from circulation. I encourage all Team Members to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming election,” the former Alabama football coach’s statement read.

More Perfect Union Founder Faiz Shakir, who played college baseball at Harvard, defended using Saban’s pro-UAW statements in the ad. 

“When a lot of college coaches weren’t willing to talk up the value of organizing college athletes, Coach Saban did,” Shakir told “I understand that, in the closing moments of a union drive at the Vance plant, he’s probably getting pressure from the Mercedes leadership to speak out, so he felt he needed to say something. We didn’t take anything Coach said out of context; we presented his public statements exactly as he made them; and we’d ask people to watch the ad and judge for themselves.”

For more, check out

Latest Headlines from UAW Mercedes Election 

Cannes Film Festival Bosses Working to Prevent Strike

Finally, for the first time in decades, the Cannes Film Festival could be disrupted by a strike of its workers as top French unions have packed their cause. A high-profile pre-rally party on Sunday for festival workers quickly turned into a rally for the festival workers group Sous les écrans. 

Cannes Festival management is working to prevent a strike. From Hollywood Reporter:

The group, whose name translates as Broke Behind the Screens, has long been sounding the alarm about the precarious nature of film festival work, which typically involves short-term freelance contracts. Many intermediate festival workers are not covered by France’s unemployment insurance program, meaning in between jobs or projects they do not qualify for unemployment benefits.

New French labor laws, set to go into effect on July 1, will make it even harder for many freelance workers to qualify for benefits. The collective is calling for a change to the contracts from freelance festival workers to allow them to qualify, and for the changes to be backdated 18 months to allow workers to claim for previous festival work.

More than 400 international filmmakers and industry executives, including Anatomy of a Fall actor Swann Arlaud and Louis Garrell, who stars in Quentin Dupieux’s Cannes festival opener The Second Act, Palme d’Or winner Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Hellboy director Neil Marshall, and U.S. director and producer John Landis (The Blues Brothershave signed an online petition in support of Sous les écrans.

The Cannes festival has said it is open to a dialog with the group and hopes that “collective action” can prevent a strike. The festival is expected to address the issue on Monday. The 77th Cannes film festival kicks off Tuesday, May 14.

For more, check out Hollywood Reporter. 

Strikes & News Happening Elsewhere 

All right, folks, that’s all for today. Keep sending tips, story ideas, comments, and complaints to [email protected] 

Donate to help us cover both the Mercedes UAW election in Alabama and the union contract fight at IATSE. Please, if you can, sign up as one of our 778 recurring donors today. 

Love & Solidarity, 


About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]