NM governor supports local TV and film workers who may be striking soon

By: - October 5, 2021 4:44 pm

“Better Call Saul” is filmed in New Mexico. Patrick Fabian, Rhea Seehorn, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael Mando, Giancarlo Esposito and Tony Dalton. (Image by James Minchin / AMC)

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday, Oct. 5, issued a statement of support for the local branch of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, whose members are prepared to walk off set as they fight for better working conditions behind the scenes of movies and TV shows produced in the state.

“The women and men of IATSE 480 make the magic happen,” Lujan Grisham said. “They are the heart and soul of every production that is filmed here, and they are one of the key reasons that productions and production companies that choose New Mexico come back and choose New Mexico again and again.” 

Over the weekend, the national union overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike, with 90% of eligible voters casting ballots, and more than 98% of them voting in favor of a strike, according to the results.

The governor said she stands with workers who seek workplace dignity and safety, “and the assurance of a living wage – the kind of wage that allows someone who works a full day and a full week, or beyond, to lead a happy and healthy life. I extend my support to the members of IATSE 480 in their negotiation with industry management, and I hope for a productive dialogue with a swift and satisfying resolution.”

National IATSE President Matthew Leob says he’s hoping for the same thing. “I hope that the studios will see and understand the resolve of our members,” he said. “The ball is in their court. If they want to avoid a strike, they will return to the bargaining table and make us a reasonable offer.”

New Mexico is one of the production hubs where workers are represented by 23 local chapters outside of Los Angeles and are covered under a separate collective bargaining agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, Deadline reported.

The national union includes 60,000 members representing 36 local chapters. It is the first time in the union’s 128-year history that members authorized a nationwide strike.

The vote follows stalled contract negotiations with the industry over long hours, low pay and other issues, including provisions that would impose penalties on employers who withhold lunch breaks, In These Times reported.

In April 2020, actor Bob Odenkirk who plays the title character of the popular “Better Call Saul” prequel spinoff of “Breaking Bad” said he would often be asked to work 14-hour days on set. Both shows are filmed on-location in New Mexico. Then this July, Odenkirk collapsed on set because of a “heart-related incident.”

“Totally down with IATSE and the hardworking people who make it happen every day,” Odenkirk tweeted Sept. 24, while sharing a statement of solidarity from Writers Guild of America West to IATSE.

New Mexico is a proud pro-union state, Lujan Grisham said. “A partnership built on mutual respect is essential for this industry and every other, as workers and industry leaders re-envision what work looks like in 2021 and beyond,” she said. “We will always stand with workers seeking to improve the conditions of their employment and who fight for the collective benefit of their colleagues.”

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.