Actors, advertisers in 5th day of talks raise hopes

Proctor & Gamble boycott a potential outcome if nothing is resolved

Negotiators for striking actors and advertisers met Tuesday in Gotham for a fifth consecutive day and will meet again today, fueling continued hopes for a settlement of the five-month-old strike.

Neither side issued a statement about the session Tuesday, continuing to adhere to a gag order by federal mediators restricting comment on the substance of the talks.

But the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, showing that a settlement is far from certain, also announced that if the current talks break down, they will launch a boycott of consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble. Several dozen celebrity members have agreed to participate by targeting a “dirty dozen” P&G products, which could include Tide, Folgers, Crest, Pringles, Charmin, Ivory soap and Pampers.

“A boycott of Procter & Gamble products, powered by celebrity members of SAG and AFTRA and run in association with the 13.5 million American AFL-CIO families across the country, could be devastating,” said SAG rep Greg Krizman.

Acrimony down

Sources close to the negotiations indicated both sides conducted a full day of talks Tuesday that adjourned in late afternoon. Those sources have reacted with cautious optimism to the ongoing talks, noting the tenor of discussion has been far less acrimonious than previous meetings.

The continuation of the talks is also viewed as a probable indication that advertisers have dropped their demand for elimination of residuals for network TV ads.

About 200 supporters continued a “silent vigil” in the rain Tuesday outside the sessions at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in midtown Manhattan. High-profile members included Dan Lauria and former SAG prexy Richard Masur.

Tuesday’s talks represented the second consecutive day in which full bargaining teams for both sides had attended. Besides network residuals, other key issues to be settled include demands by SAG and AFTRA for cable residuals, monitoring and Internet jurisdiction.

Strikebreakers call

In a sign of the growing belief that the bitter dispute may end soon, strike leaders have reported a sharp surge in inquiries from non-union actors about joining SAG and AFTRA if they leave the set of a non-union shoot. The unions will consider actors who walk off a struck production prior to performing, but not those who have already performed struck work.

“We’ve seen a quadrupling of calls this week from people who are scabbing, because they realize this may be over soon,” one leader said.

The unions have also completed six trial board procedures to discipline members who performed struck work since the strike began May 1. SAG and AFTRA, which did not release identities, said punishments included suspension, fines and service work and have promised they will conduct further trial boards.

Pickets continue

Even with talks progressing, union activists continued to stage demonstrations against General Motors with pickets at the New Venture Gear plant in Muncie, Ind., and a Saturn plant in Wilmington, Del., in order to persuade union drivers to stop deliveries.

Strike captain Michael Brennan said the Muncie action cut production by 60% on Monday, although GM reps have insisted there has been no impact from the pickets.

Brennan said SAG and AFTRA will joined the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television & Radio Artists to leaflet at a GM plant in that country today.

In Los Angeles, two dozen union activists were kicked out of a Monday night taping of “Politically Incorrect” for disruptive behavior such as coughing in order to protest host Bill Maher’s recent anti-union comments. The program that aired early Tuesday included Maher, who is a SAG and AFTRA member, snapping angrily at an activist, “Get a job; you won’t need a union.”

Attendees said the disruptions clearly annoyed Maher, who called the activists “cowards” off camera along with proclaiming “I’m not big on unions.” In response, he was told, “You’ve betrayed your union.”

Activists plan to picket today at a Hollywood McDonald’s owned by the corporation over its shooting of non-union ads.

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