Ad biz, SAG still at table

Sources say settlement 'still uncertain'

Negotiators for striking union actors and advertisers met for a second day Thursday and agreed to come back to the table today in what will be the longest stretch of bargaining in five months.

Both sides, meeting at federal mediators’ offices at the World Trade Center in New York under a voluntary gag order, would only say that the sessions were conducted in a “business-like manner.” Sources close to the talks said that bargainers met face-to-face but characterized the chances for a settlement as “still uncertain.”

The key issue to be resolved is likely to remain the ad industry’s insistence on eliminating “Class A” residuals for network TV ads and replacing them with upfront buyouts. Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have vowed they will break off the talks and not send their entire bargaining team to New York if the ad industry negotiators do not drop that demand.

The issue has been the overriding problem in resolving the strike since it began May 1. The two sides have met only three times; they held meetings for a day and a half in July and a single day in June before mediators called off talks on both occasions.

The unions are also demanding cable residuals, a monitoring system and Internet jurisdiction.

If today’s sessions are productive, the rest of the 26-member SAG/AFTRA bargaining team is expected to travel to New York to begin full negotiations on Monday. But if the talks collapse, union leaders have promised they will escalate demonstrations against the ad industry.

Union supporters have hit General Motors plants hard over the past month for the automaker’s use of non-union ads during the strike, including a Tiger Woods Olympic-themed spot that has been airing extensively. Demonstrations were held Thursday outside GM plants in Doraville, Ga., and Lordstown, Ohio, aimed at keeping union truck drivers from making deliveries. More protests are planned for today.

In Los Angeles, demonstrators picketed at a McDonald’s in Hollywood and persuaded a principal actor to walk off a non-union shoot for Miller Brewing.

Activists in Los Angeles were also angered Thursday over the possibility that actors who have performed struck work might be cast in an upcoming “Got Milk” spot for the California Milk Processor Board, which recently signed an interim agreement with the unions. The milk board and its ad agency had no comment.

The casting call for the spot had been picketed several weeks ago in Los Angeles. SAG’s strike committee recently recommended to its national board that any actor performing struck work be permanently banned from union membership.

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