International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

IATSE logo.png
Full nameInternational Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada
FoundedJuly 17, 1893; 127 years ago (1893-07-17)
Members150,000 (2020)
Key people
  • Matthew D. Loeb International President
  • James B. Wood General Secretary, Treasurer
Office locationManhattan, New York City, U.S.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada, known as simply the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees or IATSE for short, is a labor union representing over 140,000 technicians, artisans, and craftspersons in the entertainment industry, including live theatre, motion picture and television production, and trade shows in the United States and Canada.[2] It was awarded Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre in 1993.


IATSE was founded in 1893 when representatives of stagehands working in eleven cities met in New York and pledged to support each other's efforts to establish fair wages and working conditions for their members. IATSE has evolved since then to embrace the development of new entertainment media, craft expansion, technological innovation and geographic growth.

Today, IATSE members work in all forms of live theater, motion picture and television production, trade shows and exhibitions, television broadcasting, and concerts as well as the equipment and construction shops that support all these areas of the entertainment industry. IATSE represents virtually all the behind the scenes workers in crafts ranging from motion picture animator to theater usher.

During a period when private sector union membership has been in sharp decline, IATSE has continued to grow. Since 1993, IATSE's membership has increased from 74,344 to 140,000 which it attributes to its willingness to adapt its structure to protect traditional jurisdiction and accommodate new crafts.[3]



In 1886, members of the Theatrical Protective Union of New York went on strike in New York City. After producers filled the positions of strikers with less skilled strikebreakers, actors refused to work due to sets falling apart.[4] With the support of the actors behind the strikers, they succeeded in most of their requests.

In 1893, representatives of stagehands from eleven cities met in New York to discuss working conditions for their peers. They vowed to support each other in the effort to create an industry that would allow for fair wages and better working conditions. On June 17, 1893, the representatives officially formed the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.[5] In 1895, "home rule" was established. The Alliance defined home rule as "22 New York theatres for New York local members, Chicago theatres for Chicago (and so forth)... and no other members of locals allowed to work within the jurisdiction of other locals without (their) consent."[6]

The Los Angeles Theatrical workers union (which had independently formed in 1891) joined IATSE in 1896.[7] By 1898, the IATSE had welcomed two Canadian locals into the alliance: Montreal Local 56 and Toronto Local 58. In 1902, the Alliance adopted "International" into its title.[8]

In 1912, the union began a system that allowed individuals traveling with attractions to send basic information such as the size and length of time the local crews would be needed ahead to the next destination. This assured that there would be enough people to staff each theatre, and helped ensure these were union crews. The system is still in process today, and is referred to as the "yellow card system."[9]

IATSE was quickly becoming the preeminent theatrical union in North America after the Canadian Department of Labour listed theatrical locals in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Calgary, Saskatchewan and Vancouver in 1928.[10]

In June 1933, President Roosevelt signed legislation into law affecting all US workers: the National Recovery Act, creating the National Recovery Administration (NRA). The NRA's first mission was to create a uniform system of codes to cover all of industry in the United States. For months, the Alliance participated in hearings to create an industrial code for the entertainment industry. Eventually, four different codes were established: Code of Fair Competition for the Motion Picture Industry; Code of Fair Competition for the Legitimate Full Length Dramatic and Musical Theatrical Industry; Code of Fair Competition for the Burlesque Theatrical Industry; and the Code of Fair Competition for the Motion Picture Laboratory Industry. The NRA shortened working hours to spread the work around, and set the first minimum wage level for stagehands.[11] In 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, including a provision that required studios to rearrange production schedules to fit the agreed-upon 44-hour work week (to be reduced to 40 over the following three years).[12]


In 1940 the Canadian Picture Pioneers organization was formed, "dedicated to the support and well-being of all members of the motion picture industry in Canada."[13][14]


On November 6, 1996, the AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers, Inc.) and the IATSE signed the first-ever agreement between the two organizations. The agreement established the wages and working conditions applicable to motion picture and television production technicians and artisans employed in the production of television commercials, and was intended to recognize and address the special needs of the television commercial production process.[15]

In 1998, the five departments were established: Stagecraft, Motion Picture and Television Production, Organizing, Trade Show and Display Work, and Canadian Affairs.[16] In 2011 the Communications Department was established, and in 2012, the Organizing Department was folded into the Stagecraft Department, and two new departments were established: Education and Training, and Broadcast.

In 1999, IATSE established the IATSE Political Action Committee, a federal political action committee designed to support candidates for federal office who promote the interests of the members of the IATSE and its locals and to support a federal legislative and administrative agenda to benefit those members.[17]

The Labor Education Assistance Program (LEAP) was launched in 2009, which would pay tuition for labor studies courses taken by its local union officers.[18] Following LEAP, the IA established the Training Trust to provide training opportunities in the areas of safety and skills development for IATSE members.


During the early 20th century, organized crime gained influence over parts of IATSE in collusion with employers. In June 1934, IATSE held an election with only one person running.[19] The election was rigged by the soon-to-be elected President Browne. The other two opponents in the running suddenly dropped from the race after death threats were received. Willie Bioff, another Chicago gangster, was instantly elected Browne's "personal representative".[19]

Later that year Bioff went to Hollywood on behalf of IATSE.[20] He used violent threats to discuss a private and limited contract with studios. These contracts included weak contracts and high dues. The studios liked the protection against the union. In 1941, Bioff and other mobsters were charged with corruption leading to union members attempting to remove them from power in IATSE. However, The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees remained corrupt and reverted to fraudulent negotiating practices.[20] Some sources suggest that, in the later years, IATSE was "more interested in breaking strikes than winning them".[19]


The membership process of the IATSE varies widely depending on each local. In order to become a member, interested applicants must contact the appropriate local union in their jurisdiction that covers their particular craft.[21] Once accepted, members work under union contracts that guarantee certain wages, hours, benefits, safety guidelines, and other agreements, and gain opportunities to upgrade skills and master new technologies relating to their craft. Additionally, IATSE members enjoy benefits from Union Plus, a program created by the AFL-CIO to provide savings and discounts to union members.[22]

Organization and structure

Within the U.S. and Canada, there are more than 375 IATSE local unions among 13 geographical districts, whose members make up the rank and file of the IATSE. The IATSE local unions are organized to represent workers by geographic and craft jurisdiction. Each craft falls under one of four departments: Stagecraft, Motion Picture and TV, Broadcast, and Tradeshow. The Canadian Department and Communications Department are two additional departments within the IA.[23]

IATSE district color map


The IATSE International Union supports all individual local unions and members in numerous ways, including by:

  • Coordinating the negotiation of nationwide agreements within the U.S. and Canada,
  • Planning for the future by setting policies to improve the effectiveness of the locals and the International,
  • Providing support for local unions and members as needed, including everything from craft training and leadership education to local administration, organizing and collective bargaining assistance.

The International's General Executive Board is led by the International President. It consists of the General Secretary-Treasurer, and 13 International Vice-Presidents. Of the Vice Presidents, two are designated to come from Canadian locals; one is designated to come from the West Coast Studio production locals; another, the Special Department locals; and the remainder are undesignated. Three International Trustees review the financial activities of the IATSE through semi-annual audits of the International's books and records. Also on the Board is the Canadian Labour Congress Delegate, who serves as a liaison between the IA the CLC, Canada's umbrella organization for dozens of Canadian and international unions.


The Canadian Department oversees all IATSE Canadian affairs and supports the 16,000 Canadian members in 40 Locals through negotiations, training, and organizing.

The Canadian Department works with stage locals to organize more theaters, venues, and shows. Also involved in motion picture and tradeshow, the Canadian Department works closely with all other IATSE departments on international agreements with employers and providing education and training opportunities tailored for Canadian members. The department also provides support for Canadian members and locals, coordinates efforts on national initiatives with regards to benefits, legislation, political activism, lobbying, and more.


District Number States and provinces served
In the United States and possessions
1 Alaska Montana Idaho Oregon Washington
2 Arizona California Hawaii Nevada
3 Maine Massachusetts New Hampshire Rhode Island Vermont Connecticut
4 Pennsylvania Delaware Maryland Virginia West Virginia District of Columbia
5 Wyoming Colorado Utah New Mexico
6 Texas Oklahoma Arkansas
7 Tennessee Alabama Georgia North Carolina South Carolina Mississippi Louisiana
8 Michigan Indiana Ohio Kentucky
9 Wisconsin Iowa Illinois Missouri Minnesota North Dakota South Dakota Nebraska Kansas
10 New York New Jersey
14 Florida Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands
In Canada
11 Ontario Quebec New Brunswick Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island Newfoundland and Labrador
12 Manitoba Saskatchewan Alberta British Columbia

US national charters

Local unions

Local 28 rally in Portland, OR

Each local functions autonomously, maintaining their own Constitution and By-Laws, elections, dues structure, membership meetings, and more. Locals negotiate labor contracts regarding wages, work rules, and grievance procedures. They also provide services to their members by administering health and retirement funds and providing training and education. The IATSE local unions work for the interest of their membership, while also representing the overarching goals of the IATSE International.


Stagecraft members work in venues that include Broadway theaters, opera houses, dance centers, regional theaters, seasonal outdoor amphitheaters, arenas, concert halls, parks, television awards venues and stadiums. Additionally, the front-of-house workers, press agents, house managers and other employees working in the business side of the venue (not the creative/technical side) may also be represented by IATSE However, this is not a set rule, and the employees covered by IATSE depends on the agreement made between IATSE and the venue.

Motion picture and TV

Members of the IATSE Motion Picture Division help create all elements of movies and television. Motion Picture and TV members build the sets, design the clothing, frame the image, record the dialogue, edit the scenes, and animate the characters to help bring a story to life. The IATSE also covers transportation in Canada excluding two provinces. Their work covers movies large and small, animated films and series, internet content, television shows across the dial - including children's programming, reality, game, awards and talk shows.


As one of the newcomers to the entertainment world, the Convention and Tradeshow Industry has been enlarging its footprint over the last four decades. In that time, IATSE Stage and Exhibition Locals have been engaged in the installation and dismantling of local, national and international Conventions and Tradeshows. More recently, the International's Tradeshow Department has formalized its relationship with multi-national employers by initiating national agreements and standardizing conditions for workers in the industry.


The IATSE has represented workers in television broadcast for over sixty years. Initially IA members in broadcast were employed primarily at local television stations. Beginning in 1998 the IATSE began to organize technicians engaged in telecasting live sports events over regional cable sports networks. Today the Broadcast Department consists of numerous local unions that represent television station employees, locals that specialize in live sports broadcasting and thousands of members working in broadcast from stage, studio mechanics, wardrobe and make-up artists and hair stylist local unions. Broadcast technicians include technical directors, audio technicians, camera operators, video technicians, capture playback operators, editors, graphics artist and utility technicians.


The Communications Department enhances and supports the IATSE by maintaining the IATSE's website, social media channels, email program, and coordinating with other departments and Locals to disseminate information. Established in 2011, the Communications Department has set up an informal network of communication amongst Locals, and between Locals and the International. The Communications Department also creates educational materials to assist local unions and IATSE staff with modern communications methods and platforms.

Education and training

The Education & Training Department facilitates and supports a culture of ongoing learning within the IATSE. Equally dedicated to leadership skills for union officers and craft skills and safety training for workers, the department sponsors and promotes union skills courses and workshops. It also works closely with the IATSE Training Trust Fund, ETCP, InfoComm, USITT and others in order to help workers keep abreast of new technologies, equipment, and styles of work. Additionally, the department operates outreach programs to high school and college students. The department was officially established in 2012, following the founding of the Labor Education Assistance Program (LEAP) in 2009. LEAP provides reimbursement money to officers of local unions who enroll in qualifying Labor Studies Programs.[26]

See also


  1. ^ "About the IATSE". International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employee. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  2. ^ Cieply, Michael (November 27, 2012). "Hollywood Labor Fight Looms as Money for Benefits Wanes". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "About the IATSE - IATSE Labor Union, representing the technicians, artisans and craftpersons in the entertainment industry". iatse.net.
  4. ^ "IATSE Timeline: Theatrical Protective Union of NY".
  5. ^ "About the IATSE | IATSE Labor Union, representing the technicians, artisans and craftpersons in the entertainment industry". www.iatse.net. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  6. ^ "IATSE Timeline: First Convention".
  7. ^ "IATSE Timeline: LA Theatrical Workers Union".
  8. ^ "IATSE Timeline: Canadian Locals Welcomed into the Alliance".
  9. ^ "IATSE Timeline: Yellow Card System".
  10. ^ "IATSE Timeline: IA the Preeminent Theatrical Union in North America".
  11. ^ "IATSE Timeline: National Recovery Act Becomes Law".
  12. ^ "IATSE Timeline: Fair Labor Standards Act Passed".
  13. ^ "Canadian Picture Pioneers Created".
  14. ^ "About Us: Canadian Picture Pioneers".
  15. ^ "IATSE Timeline: AICP and IATSE Reach Landmark Agreement".
  16. ^ "IATSE Timeline: IATSE Departments Established".
  17. ^ "IATSE Timeline: IATSE-PAC".
  18. ^ "IATSE Timeline: IATSE Launches LEAP".
  19. ^ a b c Woodiwiss
  20. ^ a b Mooney, Pieper and Lanza
  21. ^ "IATSE: How to Organize".
  22. ^ "IATSE: Union Member Discounts".
  23. ^ "IATSE: Structure of the IA".
  24. ^ "Local 600 - IATSE Labor Union, representing the technicians, artisans and craftpersons in the entertainment industry". iatse.net.
  25. ^ "Local 700 - IATSE Labor Union, representing the technicians, artisans and craftpersons in the entertainment industry". iatse.net.
  26. ^ "IATSE: LEAP".


  • IATSE Labor Union, Representing the Technicians, Artisans and Craftpersons in the Entertainment Industry." History of IATSE: timeline. N.p., n.d. Web. June 2013.
  • IATSE Labor Union, Representing the Technicians, Artisans and Craftpersons in the Entertainment Industry." About the IATSE. N.p., n.d. Web. June 2013.
  • Woodiwiss, Michael. Organized Crime and American Power: A History. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2001. Print.
  • Mooney, Jadwiga E. Pieper., and Fabio Lanza. De-centering Cold War History: Local and Global Change. London: Routledge, 2012. Print.

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