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Georgia companies still recovering from pandemic shutdown face prospect of film worker strike

Businesses that rely on Georgia's film and TV production industry could feel the effects of a strike starting Monday.
Businesses that rely on Georgia's film and TV production industry could feel the effects of a strike starting Monday.
Credit Emil Moffatt / WABE

The union that represents thousands of behind-the-scenes film and TV workers says members will go on strike Monday unless a deal is reached with producers. It could disrupt dozens of projects currently underway in Georgia.

When it comes to dealing with the financial fallout of strikes, Georgia doesn’t have a ton of recent experience.

“You know typically, we think about the fact that less of the Georgia workforce is unionized than in other parts of the country as making us a bit little less vulnerable to strike activity,” said Roger Tutterow, an economist at Kennesaw State University.

He says the impact will largely depend on how long a strike lasts. He also says it’s important to remember what many Georgia companies who depend on the film industry for business have endured the last two years.

“There’s spillovers into the hospitality industry and into the retail industry which are two industries that had already gotten hit pretty bad by the pandemic,” said Tutterow.

One example is Elizabeth’s Catering, which gets 95% of its business from film and TV productions across Georgia. It’s a company that started as a bakery in 2012 and evolved into a full-time caterer.  Owner Beth Castro says they had to shut down for a time in March 2020, before gradually finding more work.

“We really kind of created and crafted the way back in through catering, doing individual boxes versus the traditional line where people kind of serve themselves,” said Castro.

And this year, she says, they’ve been busy.

“We’ve turned down four productions in the last week because we are completely booked through the end of the year,” Castro said.

But those plans could be disrupted starting Monday if film workers with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees – demanding higher pay and more regular working hours – go on strike.

Overall Economic Impact

A possible strike may affect some businesses, but it will have little impact on Georgia’s overall economy. 

Fellow Kennesaw State University economist J.C. Bradbury says if they strike, filming here would stop, but it won’t be a significant impact on Georgia’s economy.

“The news and other broadcast they talk about these huge impacts. But really when you look at the film industry its about $3 billion a year in Georgia, which may sound like a lot,” said Bradbury.

But he says it’s only half of a percent of the entire state GDP.

And he points out that many of the 15,000 to 20,000 workers in Georgia are part-time employees or come form out of state.

WABE’s Susanna Capelouto contributed to this report.