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Thesps call on Cheney to push negotiators

VP candidate sits on ad giant's board

With negotiators for striking union actors and advertisers meeting today for the first time in nearly two months, the thesps have asked Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney to push the ad industry toward ending the work stoppage.

The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists issued the request Tuesday and cited Cheney’s membership on the board of consumer products giant Procter & Gamble since 1993. They also noted that the campaign of George W. Bush’s running mate agreed last week to shoot ads under union-approved interim agreements.

Cheney’s reps were not available for comment.

“As an officer of P&G and as a candidate for vice president, we are asking you to use your influence and your access to urge your representatives on the Joint Policy Committee to negotiate fairly as the parties re-enter negotiations,” the New York SAG/AFTRA strike task force said. “This impasse has had a severe impact on the national economy and especially on the economies of Los Angeles and New York.”

Negotiators ripped

The union leaders also took the opportunity to deliver a slap at the ad industry’s negotiators.

“It has become clear to SAG and AFTRA members that the JPC’s motive, under the leadership of their chief negotiator, John McGuinn and chief legal counsel Ira Shepard, is to break the unions,” they told Cheney. “The results would be the loss of health insurance for thousands of union families, the economic decimation of our pension plans and the end of safe working conditions and fair salaries for 135,000 working-class actors.”

Outlook for the talks is mixed at best, with advertisers — repped by the Joint Policy Committee of the Assn. of National Advertisers and the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies — giving no indication that they will ease off their demand for elimination of residuals for network TV ads.

The ad industry has angered actors during the strike by using non-union talent extensively and by announcing that the work stoppage has had no impact on the rate of production and quality of ads. Those contentions have been bitterly disputed by the unions.

SAG and AFTRA indicated last month that they had modified their proposal for cable residuals by offering interim agreements that featured significantly lower rates for smaller systems. Union leaders are also seeking Internet jurisdiction and monitoring.

“We are going back with a lot of flexibility,” said national strike coordinator Todd Amorde.

Rallies galore

The unions will hold a Gotham rally at 11 a.m. today outside BBDO headquarters with Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss, Billy Crudup, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tim Robbins, Olympia Dukakis and Celeste Holm. Strikers will also demonstrate against General Motors, tapped as a key corporate target for the rest of the strike, at its Manhattan offices, but they do not plan to stage any event near the talks, to be held at the offices of the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service.

“We want to show the negotiators that we’re optimistic about a settlement,” one strike captain said. “We’ll only demonstrate in that area if negotiations break down.”

The unions plan to send their entire negotiating team to New York for talks Monday if negotiations are progressing.

In the meantime, demonstrations are planned today against GM at its Saturn plant in Wilmington, Del., and its Cadillac plant in Livonia, Mich. Strikers claimed Tuesday that they had significantly slowed production by picketing plants in Doraville, Ga., and Pontiac, Mich.

“We turned away 100 Teamster trucks, and there were at least 100 plant workers that decided not to cross the line,” said strike captain Doug Traer.

GM, which has refused to sign an interim agreement with the unions, has insisted that the demonstrations have no impact on production.

In Los Angeles, the unions will rally at the La Brea Tar Pits with Patricia Arquette, Elliott Gould, Frances Fisher, Valerie Harper, Alfre Woodard and Dick Wilson, who plays Mr. Whipple in Charmin ads. The actors then plan to picket a trio of nearby ad agencies.

Union pickets hit a favorite target Tuesday — the company-owned Hollywood McDonald’s on Sunset Boulevard.

The unions also announced that the California Milk Processor Board has signed an interim agreement for its “Got Milk?” campaign. Demonstrators had hit casting calls for “Got Milk?” spots in recent weeks.

Jeff Manning, executive director of the milk board, said the pact is the best way to hire the best talent available and achieve its goal of selling more milk.

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