Could Woody Woodpecker go on strike?
That’s what members of the union that represents Universal Studios Hollywood “fuzzies” such as Woody and “faces” such as Mae West say if their reps and park execs can’t reach terms next week. The contract for the workers who roam the park as various animated and real-life figures expired in May and there have been two extensions since.
“We are not bluffing. We have never been this close to a strike,” said one member of the negotiating committee. “We just think they are not taking us seriously.”
A walkout certainly couldn’t come at a worse time, during the peak of the tourism season.
The 150 or so U character workers, who are members of the American Guild of Variety Artists, claim the company wants to decrease rest time by 15 minutes per hour. Currently, Woody, Beetlejuice, Mae and friends roam the park 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off. The members are also seeking better retirement and health benefits.
AGVA members are also perturbed at management’s attitude, which they say has been mean-spirited.
During a recent negotiation, according to a source at the bargaining table, a “fuzzy” wanted to know why the canine character Beethoven was provided an umbrella during the scorching Valley summers, while the human workers were denied shade.
“The dog won’t work if it’s too hot,” reportedly replied one of U’s chief management negotiators.
“Universal Studios Hollywood has bargained and will continue to bargain in good faith,” responded Eliot Sekuler, a spokesman for the theme park. U officials declined to comment further; AGVA officials said they would not comment on ongoing negotiations.
U may also face trouble from the costumers’ union at the theme park. U’s negotiators are expected to meet today with the Intl. Alliance of Theater Stage Employee officials. The IA contingent reportedly may include the union’s prexy Tom Short.
The IA 768 costumers — which include seamstresses, makeup artists and dressers — want better wages and more full-time positions as well as added promotions based on seniority.