In Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 10, 1997, the General Executive Board of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E) issued a Studio Mechanics Charter to a group of film and video technicians in the St. Louis area. They were previously known as the Saint Louis Film and Video Production Guild.
With over 70 members, IA Local 493 represents members in the following crafts: Electric, Grip, Scenic Artists, Set Construction, Props, Greensperson, Set Dressers, Sound, VTR, Teleprompters, Script Supervisors, Wardrobe, Makeup, Hairstylist, Prosthetics, Craft Service, Locations, Production Coordinators, Medics and Special Effects.
In 2009, at the International Quadrennial Convention, IATSE Local 493 petitioned and won the right to take the state of Missouri and officially be called IATSE Studio Mechanics of Missouri.
In 1886, Union members went on strike in New York City under the Theatrical Protective Union of New York. After producers filled the positions of strikers with less skilled strikebreakers, actors refused to work due to sets falling apart. With the support of the actors behind the strikers, they succeeded in most of their requests. The Los Angeles Theatrical workers union (which had independently formed in 1891) eventually joined the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union in 1896.
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.
In 1895, "home rule" was established. The Alliance defined home rule as “22 New York theaters for New York local members, Chicago theaters for Chicago (and so forth)... and no other members of locals allowed to work within the jurisdiction of other locals without (their) consent."
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.
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 theater, and helped ensure these were union crews. The system is still in process today, and is referred to as the "yellow card system." The IA was quickly becoming the preeminent theatrical union in North America after the Canadian Department of Labor listed theatrical locals in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Calgary, Saskatchewan and Vancouver in 1928.
In June 1933, President Roosevelt signed legislation affecting all US workers into law - 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.
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).
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."
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.
In 1998, the five departments were established: Stagecraft, Motion Picture and Television Production, Organizing, Trade Show and Display Work, and Canadian Affairs.
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, the 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. The Labor Education Assistance Program was launched in 2009, which would pay tuition for labor studies courses taken by its local union Officers. Following LEAP, the IA established the Training Trust to provide training opportunities in the areas of safety and skills development for IATSE members.