Beyond the Legend

“IATSE”, these five letters are so well known that they are often a symbol and sometimes a call to arms rather than a description of worries, of the building of roots in a milieu, or in the vast field of activities of the organization of which they are the acronym, organization which is simply called “the Alliance” or “the International”. The Alliance is also known in Quebec by its French acronym “AIEST”. Little does the appellation or the abbreviation used matter; the simple reality behind the legend or the myths associated to our organization is as follows :

IATSE is a collective of people that work in the industry of entertainment, of cinema and of any other domain that is related no matter what the nature of their work or of their trade.


IATSE came to be in 1893, a period in which the theater industry was basically limited to shows on a stage. In the course of the following twenty years, the machinists, accessorizes and electricians were pioneers in obtaining the first unionized recognition for the trades of show business; they even managed to make these trades some of the most respected and best remunerated in America.

Starting in 1908, soon after the birth of cinema, the projectionists across the continent joined themselves to the Alliance. Once again, the union won the battle for union reorganization and the improvement of salaries and of work conditions. Later, during the 20s, the union movement extended itself to the Hollywood studios and to the whole network of film distribution, as much in the United States as in Canada. Then, from the very beginnings of commercial television diffusion, the Alliance occupied a first rank place in the implantation of this new medium. For the past few years, the Alliance has also welcomed into its ranks floor staff working in amusement parks, arenas, theaters and cinemas. Once again, the Alliance has revolutionized the work conditions in these sectors.


In concert halls, theaters, cinemas, auditoriums, arenas, amusement parks, cultural centers and other similar places, the members of the Alliance accomplish a multitude of tasks that are as much essential as varied: stage technicians, costumers, ticket salesperson, usher-doorman, make-up artists, hairdressers, film set technicians, clerk employees and many more.

They also perform their activities with touring shows (amongst others, Les Miserable, The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and all the shows of caliber such as the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Pink Floyd, U2, Ricky Martin, etc) that travel America and the world.

We also find our members in all the steps of film and video productions and in all trades pertaining to them: artistic directors, scriptwriters, animators, decorators, painters, drawers, seamstresses, machinists, electricians, photo directors, set photographers, hairdressers, make-up artists, sound recorders, editors, laboratory technicians, projectionists.

There are now over 800 local sections of the Alliance in Canada and the United states. The oldest among these, beginning with the ones that were formed by stage employees, represent specific trades. However, we often find many trades at the center of more recent sections, which are outside the scope of big production centers.

The members of the Alliance have always been proud of the fact that their organization encompasses the ensemble of stage trades. So, the implication of members of the Alliance goes from the conception of a film to its last presentation at the theater…and to its transfer to videotape.

The same goes for shows: our members effect all necessary operations to the mounting and unfolding of the show, from the unloading of the trucks up to the operating of high technology equipment.

Even today in various cinemas our members are present as much at the level of projection at the technical level as at that of customer service, therefore from your entrance into the cinema, from the ticket wicket to the snack counter, passing by the welcoming attendant.

This inclusion in all these trades and their unification at the core of the same organization have been the directing principles of success, as seen by the influent position occupied by the Alliance in the union movement, but also seen in the work conditions and the salaries enjoyed by the members, and that remain the best ever obtained by specialized workers.

As the proverb says, “union makes the force”, and nothing is as strong as the meeting at the core of a same organization of all the players of an industry, no matter what their trade, their sector of activity or their work place.

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