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Film Producers Flip Bargaining Table with Unionizing Effort

Original publish date: May 21, 2021

Movie producers often find themselves negotiating with talent and crew members, and/or their production union representatives, over pay and benefits. But a group of 108 producers flipped the script Thursday in announcing they were looking to form a union of their own.

Higher minimum pay and health benefits were cited as the two major reasons.

While the group, called the Producers Union, boasts some heavy hitters such as Chris Moore (Manchester by the Sea) and Rebecca Green (It Follows), they made it clear that the traditional image of a Hollywood producer is misleading. Many are just getting by, project to project, looking for a breakout hit to up their quote. According to a survey released this year, 41% of producers made less than $25,000 in the pre-pandemic boom times of 2019.

The Producers Union has developed a constitution with provisions for dues and diversity initiatives, with the aim of eventually negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with distributors and other film financiers. Previous efforts by producers to unionize have been thwarted by the courts and the National Labor Relations Board, according to Variety, as the NLRB saw them as supervisors and employers – which creates a high barrier to organizing.

But Green points out that many film producers, herself included, are not owners of the projects they produce, but rather workers for hire.

“We’re seen as the ones making all the money,” she told Variety. “But the majority of producers are really struggling to pay their bills.”

Following a decades-long struggle to be recognized as an employee bargaining unit, the Producers Guild of America finally was able to secure the ability of its members to participate in the Motion Picture Industry Health Plan, after meeting steep eligibility requirements. In practice, not many qualify, and there is still no bargaining power for the 8,000-strong guild. The PGA said on Thursday it supports its producers’ efforts to form a true union.

Read more about the Producers Union and the history of the PGA in the original Variety article.

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