Teamsters Put Pedal To The Metal For Independent Commercial Producers Talks & Deal

EXCLUSIVE: As the Writers Guild strike enters its second month and the Directors Guild’s talks with the studios come down to the wire with looming SAG-AFTRA negotiations set to start next week, the under the radar battle between the Teamsters and the Association of Independent Commercial Producers could get explosive.

Demanding that the AICP return to the bargaining table ASAP over wage increases, greater overtime compensation and more to avert a strike next month, Teamsters Local 399 have instituted a self-described “week of action” to kick things into high gear.

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“Retroactivity is not a thing in the commercial world,” Local 399 VP and Chief Negotiator in commercials, Joshua Staheli told Deadline today of the Don’t Make Us Take A Commercial Break campaign. “Deals are made with ad agencies up front. The commercials producers can’t go back and change the terms after a project has wrapped. This means, anything less than a raise for our members on July 1st of this year is a pay cut. We need the AICP to get serious about getting a deal done before June 30th.”

With about 500 members on average annually that work on commercials, the Lindsay Dougherty-led Local 399 wants to see the AICP agree to further talks in the next week or so. Currently, the two sides, who first began bartering in early May, aren’t scheduled to meet until June 19 – less than two weeks before the current contract expires.

While not contesting the state of talks, the AICP says they have not put the brakes on an agreement.

“AICP and the Teamsters Local 399 have mutually agreed upon dates to meet this month,” a spokesperson for the Association said Thursday. “Any implication that the AICP left the bargaining table or in any way slowed the process of trying to reach a mutually beneficial deal by the expiration of the contract is categorically false.”

Even with the differing POV on the literally talks, the fact is if there is not a deal in place by the end of this month, the Teamsters could hit the picket lines – as Dougherty made clear last week.

“They’re not wanting to give our members the fair wages they deserve,” the labor leader told Hollywood union and guild members at the WGA fueled Unions Strike Back rally on May 26 in DTLA. “But we are ready to take a Commercial Break. If we are provoked, we will strike.”

There are actually two separate contracts at play simultaneously between the Teamsters and the 51-year-old AICP. One agreement covers drivers, wranglers, animal handlers/trainers, and hyphenated drivers, and the other covers location scout/managers in commercials.

“Things are still pretty far apart,” a source familiar with the state of the paused talks on both contracts says, with money proving the sticking point.

“With inflation on the rise, my biggest priority this round is fair wages,” asserts Local 399 driver Laurel Hitchin, who is on the bargaining committee for talks with the AICP.  

“In our case, the companies we are ultimately working for are the advertisers which are huge corporations like Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Home Depot, Verizon, and Toyota to name a few,” the longtime commercials worker adds. “These companies have been making gargantuan profits the last few years, and they can’t do that without workers like us showing up job after job and doing the work. All we are asking is to be paid a fair wage appropriate for the hard hours we work and the high cost of living in Los Angeles.”

FYI – Getting City of Angels specific, the Hollywood Teamsters current contract with the studios expires next year.

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