Biz unions protest overhaul of state laws

The entertainment industry will be exempt from Gov. Pete Wilson’s proposal to make the state’s overtime laws more flexible, but union members turned out at a rally against the change, fearing that the new standards eventually will be applied to Hollywood.

The protest rally on Friday was held as a state panel heard testimony on a proposal to change the state’s overtime laws so that employers would pay time and a half after 40 hours worked in a week for a single employer. It would replace a provision to pay time and a half after eight hours worked in a day.

Backers of the plan say that it will give more flexibility for employers and employees, and that the change merely puts California in line with existing federal standards.

The Industrial Welfare Commission decided last year to exempt the motion picture and television industry from the change, following opposition from labor groups, including the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Screen Actors Guild.

Even so, the protest drew members of Hollywood unions, who fear that changes in overtime will give studios a bargaining chip in future labor negotiations. While unions are protected by a collective bargaining agreement that supersedes state law, labor officials fear that studios will argue that they need more flexible overtime to remain competitive.

‘Exempt for the moment’

“Right now we are exempt for the moment,” said Bruce Doering, executive director of the Intl. Photographers Guild Local 600. “But once it is done here, there will be more industries.”

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is neutral on the proposal to change the state’s overtime laws.

‘Brent’s Rule’

The rally comes as Hollywood guilds and crews are circulating a petition calling for the industry to adopt a 14-hour maximum workday. Members of the crew of “Pleasantville” initiated the petition after the pic’s second assistant cameraman, Brent Hershman, died in a car accident after working a 19-hour day. Producers of the pic also signed the petition, called “Brent’s Rule.”

On a stage set up at the corner of Broadway and First Street, Deborah Hershman spoke to the crowd about her husband’s desire to always “give 150% to someone.” She recalled waiting for her husband to come home from work on many nights. “You worry and hope your partner in life will be OK,” she said.

“We need to treat people humanely and remember the most important part of our life, our family,” she said.

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