Actors hope for show of SAG solidarity at Emmy Awards

The cast of “Frasier,” expressing the growing frustration among striking union actors toward advertisers, urged all attendees at the Primetime Emmy Awards to wear gold ribbons as a show of support for the work stoppage.

“We hope everyone in the damn auditorium wears a ribbon,” declared David Hyde Pierce during a news conference Wednesday outside Paramount Studios in Hollywood. “With this strike in its fifth excruciating month, it really is time for this to end.”

Fellow cast members Peri Gilpin, Kelsey Grammer, Jane Leeves and John Mahoney also attended the event, held during a lunch break for a taping of the sitcom. Mahoney emphasized the importance of prominent actors showing solidarity with fellow members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

“The actors who do commercials are as much a part of the union as any major star,” Mahoney said. “We’re all in this together. Scabs can go to hell.”

The ceremony takes place three days before negotiators for the unions and ad industry meet in New York at the behest of federal mediators. “The time has come for the mediators to step up to the plate,” Pierce said.

The cast also asked ABC to withhold ads featuring non-union talent during the telecast. “We feel that the broadcast of any commercial featuring non-union talent during the Emmys would be an insult to all the Emmy nominees,” Gilpin said.

Pierce, who has been among the most active high-profile SAG members during the strike, admitted he would be surprised if ABC followed the suggestion of eliminating non-union spots. “We realize that we’re asking them not to treat this like a business,” he added.

ABC rep Julie Hoover said the network will not ban non-union spots. “This is a dispute between the guild and the advertising agencies, which needs to be resolved between them.”

Gilpin also said the SAG/AFTRA campaign to elevate the visibility of the ribbons (Daily Variety, Aug. 29) has generated strong support among actors. “I think you’ll see a lot of gold on Sunday,” she added.

The unions have sent out thousands of ribbons to agents and actors.

Givebacks demanded

The strike, entering its 130th day, centers on advertisers’ insistence on elimination of residuals for TV ads, maintaining they can afford to pay only upfront buyouts. That claim is bitterly disputed by actors, who are also seeking cable residuals, monitoring and Internet jurisdiction.

“In a period of record-breaking profits, it is unacceptable to expect to achieve economic rollbacks,” said SAG lead negotiator John McGuire and AFTRA lead negotiator Mathis Dunn in a statement released Wednesday. “While we’re prepared to bargain a fair deal, cutting performers’ compensation and not recognizing the future is not a fair deal in our opinion.”

The unions, which have been attempting to involve celebrity members in recent weeks, will hold a major rally today in Gotham at the Royale Theater on Broadway with Kevin Bacon, Harry Belafonte, Richard Dreyfuss, Olympia Dukakis, Blythe Danner, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marissa Tomei and the cast of “Third Watch” slated to attend. Philip Bosco and Robert Klein will host, and state comptroller H. Carl McCall will release a letter to AT&T urging a halt to filming non-union spots.

Strikers hit AT&T Wednesday in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia, with Richard Lewis and Ronnie Shell picketing at a Hollywood demonstration.

The unions plan to demonstrate today against General Motors, which remains their key target, at plants in Wilmington, Del.; Detroit; Beaverton, Ore.; and Santa Fe Springs. The actions over the past three weeks have been designed to slow down GM production by persuading members of other unions to honor the SAG/AFTRA picket lines.

SAG also announced that Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson has filmed two spots under interim agreements. Major League Baseball players, who have by far the most powerful sports union, have supported the strike since it began.

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