The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, its Territories and Canada modified its name in 1995 because down through the years its name had become largely symbolic rather than descriptive of the full scope of its far-flung activities. Gradually, the stage employees and movie operators have been joined by a great variety of other craftspersons in the numerous branches of the entertainment industry, including television, all banding together to achieve the maximum of unified strength.
The organization is best known as the I.A.T.S.E. Often the members speak of it as just the I.A. It can best be described, however, as the union of people behind the scenes in the manifold media of show business.
The I.A.T.S.E. began in 1893, when show business was confined almost entirely to the stage. During the next twenty years, the stage carpenters, propertymen and electricians pioneered a drive for union recognition in the theatre -- and finally established their craft as one of the highest paid and most respected in America.
Beginning in 1908, soon after the birth of the film industry, projectionists throughout the continent were brought into the I.A. fold. Again a battle for recognition and top-flight wages was fought and won. Later, in the 20's, union benefits were extended to the Hollywood studios and the vast network of film exchanges throughout the United States and Canada. And finally, as soon as commercial television got a start, the I.A.T.S.E. took its natural place in this newest field of visual entertainment.
In legitimate theatres, including specifically some 35 of them in the Broadway area in New York City, and in concert halls, art and cultural centres, auditoriums, arenas and other like facilities, as well as on industrial and other types of road shows that travel from one city to another, I.A. members play an essential role, serving as stagehands, ticket sellers, wardrobe personnel, make-up artists and hairstylists, ushers, ticket-takers and doormen and maintenance employees.
In television, the combined crafts of stage and screen are utilized in ever-growing abundance. Many carpenters, electricians, and propertymen who served their apprenticeship in the theatres, help put on live TV productions. And the work of many motion picture technicians goes into the making of shows for TV. Masters of numerous additional techniques are needed to bring live, taped and filmed programs to the public. Thus the traditional I.A. projectionists, sound service engineers and recording engineers now are supplemented by I.A. video engineers, audio engineers, transmitter engineers, maintenance engineers and a host of other television technicians.
Today there are well over 800 local unions of the I.A. throughout the United States and Canada. The older ones, beginning with Stage Employees, all represent individual crafts. However, a trend toward combination began years ago with the chartering of mixed locals (Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators) in the smaller cities and mixed studio locals in smaller production centres. In 1937, the combination idea reached a new phase with the creation of a Special Department. Although this consists of separate locals of Film Exchange Employees and Theatre Employees (front of the house), jobs of numerous types are covered by each local.
Organizing by the I.A. in the TV field began with the establishment of several locals of Television Broadcasting Studio Employees. These offered the advantages of combining all crafts within a single organization, but their scope was limited to individual cities. In 1951, with the creation of Radio and Television Department, a system was established of providing direct membership in the I.A. without the local union set-up.
I.A. members who help produce film and video production for theatres, television and other purposes work in a wide variety of classifications. Among them are: art directors, story analysts, cartoonists, set designers and set decorators, scenic artists, art craftspersons, graphic artists, set painters, grips, electricians, propertypersons, teachers, costumers, make-up artists, hair stylists, motion picture and still camerapersons, sound technicians, editors, script supervisors, laboratory technicians, projectionists, utility workers, first aid employees, inspection, shipping, booking and other distribution employees. A Motion Picture Salesmen Department was established in 1957.
Members of the I.A. have long been proud of their complete coverage of the crafts of stage, screen and television. From the moment a theatrical picture is first conceived until its last run in the house, I.A. technicians are on the job. That principle of complete coverage and singleness of purpose has been applied by the I.A. with ever-increasing success to each new form of the visual entertainment industry. This is the factor which makes the I.A.T.S.E. stand head and shoulders above the rest. It is the keynote of the organization's know-how and effectiveness in building the highest wages and best working conditions to be found among skilled craftpersons anywhere. In union there is strength, and when every branch of an industry is united, that strength becomes invincible.