HOLLYWOOD — Informal talks between striking union actors and advertisers are scheduled for today and Wednesday at the Sheraton in New York, but the outlook for a break-through is murky at best as the only participants will be the two chief negotiators for each side.
Leaders continue to insist they will not change their bargaining positions and steadfastly maintain that the other side must meet their key demands. And in a sign that the stoppage may continue for several more weeks at least, over 1,100 non-union actors in Los Angeles have joined a Screen Actors Guild program to exchange volunteer work in the 44-day strike for union membership.
70 qualify for SAG
Nearly 70 actors have already qualified for membership by logging 80 hours of work — such as picketing, leafleting and staffing the phone bank — since SAG’s national board approved the novel approach a month ago.
Should the strike last into mid-summer, as many expect it will, the new members could increase the size of the Hollywood chapter by 2%. Over half of SAG’s 98,000 members are in the Los Angeles area.
Under SAG rules, actors usually qualify for a union card through being employed by a SAG signatory in a principal role; working three days as an extra; or through membership in an affiliated union such as the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. The program, which starts with a 90-minute orientation at SAG headquarters in Los Angeles, falls under the category of membership for those furthering the best interests of SAG.
“There’s no resentment among members toward the non-union people using this program to join SAG,” said Guerin Barry, a 28-year member. “It doesn’t bother me at all. The non-members have been very active and energetic.”
SAG and AFTRA have focused much of their activity during the work stoppage on gaining the support of potential strikebreakers by demonstrating at casting offices and at commercial shoots. Strike leaders contend the non-union actors have been a valuable resource in maintaining a noticeable profile after more than six weeks.
SAG and AFTRA also announced Monday they filed an unfair labor practices complaint against AT&T, ad agency Foote Cone & Belding and Beau Bonneau Casting over threats to withhold future job opportunities for refusal to cross union picket lines. The alleged violations took place at an AT&T Wireless shoot in the San Francisco area in early May.
AT&T spokesman Burke Stinson said he had not seen the complaint but added, “AT&T has had a long history of cooperating with unions.”
The advertisers, repped by the Assn. of National Advertisers and the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies, filed an unfair labor practices complaint last month against SAG after warning that members could face expulsion for struck work along with filing two bad-faith bargaining allegations. SAG and AFTRA have hit back with a bad-faith allegation over failing to negotiate jurisdiction over the Internet.
The unions picketed a McDonald’s shoot in the Southern California City of Industry on Monday along with an Eastman Kodak office in Hollywood. The companies were targeted over their failure to sign interim agreements that would allow union actors to perform.
Actor Elliot Gould joined pickets Monday at the Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonald’s in Chicago, and union demonstrators in Basking Ridge, N.J., protested at AT&T corporate headquarters and at a New Jersey mayors conference.