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SAG, advertisers talk into wee small hours

Both sides close to a final deal

Negotiators for striking union actors and advertisers continued bargaining Tuesday amid hopes that they are on the verge of a possible settlement of the bitter five-month work stoppage.

For the ninth consecutive day, bargaining took place at Gotham’s Crowne Plaza Hotel with no official comment. Mediators have imposed a gag order since talks reconvened Sept. 13, but sources close to the talks said both sides appear to be close to reaching a final deal.

“I would expect some kind of announcement today or tomorrow, although dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s can take a long time,” one source said.

The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists struck the ad industry on May 1. Union volunteers at strike headquarters in New York and Los Angeles reported that virtually every caller wants to know if a deal has been reached.

“Everyone’s been on pins and needles this week,” said SAG member Peaches Johnson in Los Angeles.

Deadlines blown

Sources are uncertain whether a deadline has been set to conclude the talks, but note that advertisers have fixed and then gone past two supposedly drop-dead deadlines in the past week.

Activists continued to picket Tuesday outside the talks in New York, while Los Angeles strikers demonstrated outside the McCann-Erickson agency on Wilshire Boulevard.

In Michigan, pickets reported they had caused significant slowdown at General Motors’ engine plant in Romulus due to Teamster drivers and other union members refusing to cross the picket line.

The Romulus action was part of the unions’ month-old campaign to target GM for shooting non-union ads with protests hitting plants in California, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Wisconsin in addition to the Detroit area. GM has denied that the actions have created any financial impact, a contention disputed by union leaders.

“We believe that we’ve caused millions of dollars of economic damage to G.M.,” said strike captain Michael Brennan, who has led many of the actions. “We’ve seriously clobbered them and we’ll keep up the pressure until this is over.”

Activists plan to hit the GM truck plant in Pontiac, Mich., today.

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