Whoopi rallies IA troops; unions show solidarity

With a boost from Whoopi Goldberg, more than 3,000 angry IATSE workers rallied Saturday in Burbank to show the producers’ union their outrage over the producers’ current proposals in ongoing contract talks.

In what the union called a “solidarity rally,” Hollywood craft workers from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees jammed into Johnny Carson Park to send the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers a message: An industrywide strike may be on its way.

“What this rally says is we’re ready to strike if we need to,” said a union source. “They can’t make proposals like that and expect us to take them sitting down.”

Contract talks between the two groups are three weeks old, but sources said little has been accomplished. Union reps and producers, now on hiatus, head back to the bargaining table Nov. 29. If a contract settlement is not reached by the Dec. 3 deadline, IATSE officials have threatened a strike.

Longtime union backer Goldberg stirred up the crowd, stating she would not cross picket lines if IATSE held a strike, despite a Screen Actors Guild rule that bars members from sympathy strikes.

“I know this is contrary to what my union says, but it’s what my heart says,” Goldberg said. After the rally, she told reporters, “I don’t cross picket lines.”

The “Sister Act” star encouraged union members to stick together to win their demands from the AMPTP. “All those things they want to take from you. I just can’t see it, man,” she said. “Forget your ego. Put it at the door. This is about all of us.”

Under a hot midday sun, craft union workers also heard support from the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild.

SAG prexy Barry Gordon, in Gotham for SAG/AFTRA merger talks, sent a letter, read by thesp David Clennon, saying: “We support all of your efforts to upgrade union contracts in this industry … and to achieve respectable and fair wages and working conditions.”

Clennon said he also would refuse to cross an IA picket line.

Reps from the United Farm Workers and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor also addressed the throng. And even some striking American Airlines flight attendants showed up in airline uniforms to give support.

“It was sensational,” said rally organizer Joe Wachter. “These guys are really fired up. They’re not going to take it anymore.”

After the rally, one IA rep said he thought it was a toss-up whether a strike would be called. Another said that even if a settlement isn’t reached by the deadline, workers might continue without a contract. Either way, he added, it would take at least three weeks after Dec. 3 to hold a strike vote.

In a statement released to the press, the IA listed some of the AMPTP’s demands, including:

The elimination of production staffing requirements.

Videocassette recorders may be operated by anyone, union or not.

Elimination of pay for unworked days on distant locations.

Elimination of the industry experience roster.

New lower wage schedules must be written into the producers’ agreement with the locals.

Elimination of any existing restrictions on the use of daily employment skeds.

Elimination of premiums for post-production night work.

The institution of pay cuts amounting to 20% for 26 consecutive weeksworked, and 25% for 40 weeks worked.

The institution of less favorable “adjustments” in the current Health and Pension Plans. “The IATSE firmly believes these proposals are unacceptable,” the statement said.

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