Thesp counters SAG penalty

Barred actor files charge against union

HOLLYWOOD — A New York actor barred from joining SAG for performing struck work has filed an unfair labor practices charge against the guild.

Robert D. Uttrich, prexy of a Gotham-based group called Grievances Against the Guild, filed the complaint this week with the National Labor Relations Board. Uttrich was banned for four and a half years last June.

In the complaint, Uttrich accused SAG of “unlawful, disparate and unequal treatment.” He contended the actions by SAG “will continue to result in severe damage to his career and his ability to make a living in his chosen profession.”

SAG has taken a hard line against those who crossed picket lines last year, banning more than 75 thesps from joining for periods ranging from six months to five years. Penalties were doled out by SAG’s membership application review committees, using evidence gathered on more than 1,500 nonmembers for working — despite SAG’s admonition — during the bitter six-month strike against advertisers.

Five-year maximum

The guild’s national board backed off earlier this year on a previous policy to permanently bar non-union strikebreakers from joining, opting instead for the maximum five-year exclusion. SAG also expelled three members for strikebreaking and assessed $100,000 fines against Tiger Woods and Elizabeth Hurley.

Uttrich’s complaint alleged that SAG accused him of performing “struck work” even though he was not a SAG member at the time. Attorney Leslie Ben-Zvi said, “The question we’re raising is how an organization can require non-members to obey its rules.”

Uttrich also said SAG had accused him of lying on his application; implemented the rules retroactively; violated legal procedures at his hearing, such as the right to know the identity of the judges and the right to have legal counsel; given out “slaps on the wrist” to celebrity members such as Woods and Hurley; denied his request for “financial core” status; and had joined in “blacklisting” him.

Although SAG urges signatory producers to not hire non-union actors, it cannot legally prevent producers from doing so.

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