Actors focus on GM as strike throttles up

SAG, AFTRA leaders vow to cause max financial harm to automaker

Striking union actors have selected General Motors as their main target for the rest of the strike and plan to demonstrate today at more than a dozen GM plants and dealerships.

Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists proclaimed they will be trying to cause as much financial harm as possible to the world’s largest automaker because of its aggressive shooting of non-union ads during the four-month strike. Members have been particularly outraged over a Tiger Woods Buick spot that began airing this week.

“We are going to inflict economic pain on GM,” SAG spokesman Greg Krizman said.

The selection comes three weeks after the unions narrowed down key corporate targets to GM, AT&T and McDonald’s. SAG and AFTRA have staged more than a dozen protests against GM since then in California, Michigan, Oregon and Wisconsin.

The unions will hold a news conference today with Scott Baio and former SAG prexy Ed Asner at the La Brea Chevrolet dealership in Los Angeles. They will also demonstrate at GM facilities in Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; San Diego and San Francisco; Orlando, Fla.; Doraville, Ga.; Arlington, Mass.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Edina, Minn.; St. Louis, Mo.; Woodbury, N.J.; Beaverton, Ore.; and Janesville, Wis.

GM rep Peg Holmes insisted the demonstrations have not impacted operations and reiterated earlier statements that the automaker is limiting its shooting of spots to those necessary to stay competitive. “We are sensitive to the concerns of the unions, but we have to be cognizant of what our rivals are doing,” she added.

SAG prexy William Daniels said demonstrators at manufacturing plants will try to persuade members of other unions such as the Teamsters and Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to honor the picket lines. Daniels has been pursuing a strategy of multi-union cooperation in recent weeks through top execs at the AFL-CIO (Daily Variety, Aug. 11). (The United Auto Workers is not being targeted because the UAW has a no-strike clause in its contract.)

“Our members across the country are prepared to set picket lines at GM assembly plants, parts manufacturing, distribution and operations centers,” Daniels said. “We’ll also be leafletting at GM car dealerships across America. The goal is to prevent deliveries, slow GM production and inform the public that General Motors is unwilling to pay actors fair wages for their work in radio and TV commercials.”

Strike captain Michael Brennan said dozens of employees refused to cross the unions’ picket line Wednesday at GM headquarters in Detroit. He also said SAG and AFTRA have been given the first position in the upcoming Labor Day parade in Detroit.

Strike captain Doug Traer, who has traveled from Los Angeles to Georgia, said he expects production to slow significantly today at the Doraville plant, which produces 70 vans per hour. “We’ve got strong support from local union truckers, and they’ve promised us they will not cross our line,” he added.

In Los Angeles, demonstrators picketed Wednesday at a McDonald’s in Hollywood and at Universal Studios over a non-union State Farm shoot. SAG members also announced plans to attends Saturday’s funeral in Inglewood for William Embry, who died last weekend after collapsing on a picket line.

SAG members Sam Aaron, Brett Brown, Hollie Hummel, Mike Kimmel, Jay Talor and Kathy Wittes also announced Wednesday they have launched a joint fast in North Hollywood in support of the strike.

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