Actors union leaders seek to permanently ban scabs

Strike panel wants to ask candidates if they've done struck work

Hitting hard at scab actors, leaders of the four-month-old actors’ strike against advertisers are seeking to permanently ban from union membership any thesp who has performed struck work.

“Part of this is motivated by the awareness of actors who have been egregious about performing struck work and part of it is trying to recognize the 99.999% of members who have stuck together on this,” Screen Actors Guild spokesman Greg Krizman said.

The recommendation, approved last week by the joint strike committee for SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, would have to be approved by the national boards of the unions to go into effect — a process that would take a month to complete.

The strike committee specifically recommended that SAG and AFTRA membership applications include a question asking prospective members if they have ever performed struck work, which would tighten existing rules considerably.

Before the strike started, SAG and AFTRA told non-union actors that crossing a picket line could endanger their ability to join the union after the strike. That prompted negotiators for the ad industry to file an unfair labor practices charge in May against the unions on the grounds that such statements represent unlawful coercion.

SAG and AFTRA have maintained that the complaint is groundless because labor law allows unions to set membership rules.

John McGuinn, the ad industry’s chief negotiator, said the complaint has been forwarded from an NLRB regional office to headquarters in Washington, D.C. “That means a delay but it also means that at least they believe the complaint has merit,” he added.

‘Wall of Shame’

Work by actors on what would normally be SAG and AFTRA shoots has particularly rankled members during the strike, now in its 128th day. At strike headquarters in SAG’s Los Angeles offices, activists have created a “Wall of Shame” of pictures of hundreds of strikebreakers.

SAG recently began the first trial boards against members but has not disclosed any rulings, which could include suspension, fines and expulsion.

SAG has reached out to non-union actors during the strike in several ways in order to reduce the problem of strikebreaking. Holding dozens of meetings for non-members, it has also allowed over 900 non-union actors to obtain SAG cards during the strike.

Exceptions to rule

Although many union members support the strike committee’s hard-line stance, other activists may try to persuade the national boards to include language that would allow exceptions to an absolute ban for those performing struck work. “I believe it’s important that we reach out to those who have extenuating circumstances such as being told it was a musicvideo instead of struck work,” strike captain Gordon Drake said.

The unions have also filed unfair labor practice charges against 13 ad agencies, advertisers and producers over violating the rights of employees by using intimidating tactics against pickets, including two alleged assaults in New York on June 22 and June 27.

With negotiators due back in New York on Sept. 13, the unions plan to keep pressure on General Motors over use of non-union spots.

Key GM plants and dealerships saw extensive picketing last week and L.A.-based actors plan to hit a parts warehouse in Santa Fe Springs today for the third time. SAG and AFTRA are also planning a national day of action against AT&T on Wednesday.

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