Rally cry: ‘No more union busting’

Between 300 and 400 union people mobbed the street outside of the CBS Studio in Studio City yesterday, cheering union leaders who gathered to send a message to Hollywood’s producers and studio heads–“no more union busting!”

“What we’ve seen in this country is a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy,” said Ed Asner, former prexy of the Screen Actors Guild, addressing the crowd.

“What’s happening in Hollywood is a replay of what’s devastating the middle class all around the country as producers look to lower wages and get rid of health and pension benefits.

“You people are the bellwether for what we’ve been seeing nationwide. But these attempts by producers to evade union contracts, to leave Hollywood and hire non-union or force union workers to resign. That’s betrayal!”

Asner was one of a handful of past and present union leaders who addressed the vociferous crowd of union workers, many of whom carried signs reading “stop union busting” and “labor solidarity works for you.”

The rally was called by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees partly to protests its fruitless attempts to draw up a union contract for the new CBS sitcom “Love and War,” from Shukovsky/English Entertainment.

Diane English and Joel Shukovsky sent a letter to the employees of their fledgling indie saying they were not anti-union, but were forced to bring in a non-union crew because they could not afford the contract of the IA, which they said was “overly aggressive, inflexible and insensitive” (Daily Variety, Oct. 28 ). They also cited IA’s threat of a strike against their company–which IA officials have denied–for going non-union.

Alfred DiTolla, international president of the IA, told the crowd he was “tired” of hearing about major studios choosing to set up “phony independent production companies” to skirt IA contracts.

“I’m tired of hearing stories of producers forcing union members to opt for financial core or not get the job,” DiTolla said. “I’m tired of hearing about well-heeled producers like Diane English who cry poverty because they refuse to make contributions to your health and welfare benefits.”

Union solidarity was the theme of the day.

“We must be more united than ever now,” DiTolla said, noting that bargaining for a new basic agreement for below-the-line workers will begin next year.

“Our message is that the IA will sit down with any show, no matter how low the budget,” DiTolla said.

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