International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

The symbol for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Photo provided by IATSE Local 478

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 478 is the New Orleans chapter of the international labor union representing skilled crafts workers in film, television, theater, broadcasting and live events (IASTE Local 478. “What is the IATSE?” Handout, New Orleans, 2013).

IATSE represents a wide variety of “below the line” creative and technical workers, including set designers and builders, customers, electricians, location scouts, prop handlers, special effects experts, and audio workers.

History & Background of IATSE Local 478

The New Orleans chapter of IATSE was chartered in 1986 to represent film and television workers in Louisiana and Southern Mississippi. With the 2002 establishment and subsequent expansion of the Louisiana Film Incentive & Tax Credit Program, its membership has grown significantly and today includes over 1,100 members in 17 different trades.

In order to join IATSE, applicants must be Louisiana or Southern Mississippi residents and have proof of previous employment in one of the fields it represents. Once admitted, members pay regular dues to the union in exchange for its services (IASTE Local 478. “What is the IATSE?” Handout, New Orleans, 2013).

Using Union Resources to Minimize Risks to Freelance Workers

Under the “virtual integration” model of the current film economy, the vast majority of production work – and the accompanying risk – is subcontracted out to small firms and freelance professionals (Christopherson, Susan. “Flexibility and Adaptation in Industrial Relations: The Exceptional Case of the U.S. Media Entertainment Industry,” in Under the Stars: Essays on Labor Relations in Arts and Entertainment, eds. Ronald L. Seeber and Louis S. Gray. (Ithaca: ILR, 1996). pp. 86-88). IATSE works to offset the risks to individual workers by establishing collective bargaining agreements with production companies and negotiating on behalf of members for fair wages, overtime, health & retirement plan contributions, and acceptable working conditions.

IATSE also assists members in finding employment by maintaining rosters of available workers to share with production companies, and by alerting members to upcoming productions that have employment openings. It also creates an environment where film professionals can network with others in their trade and share information. Because film workers are generally employed on a project-by-project basis and tend to find out about upcoming productions through informal connections, IATSE’s information-sharing function is particularly important (Blair, Helen. “Active Networking: Action, Social Structure and the Process of Networking,” in Creative Labor: Working in the Creative Industries, eds. Alan McKinlay and Chris Smith. (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009). pp. 126-129).