Unions close shop in L.A. and Gotham

SAG cancels second day of national board meeting

Showbiz unions shuttered operations Tuesday as the nation reeled in disbelief over the horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“We sent people home because it didn’t feel right for them to be working,” said A. Robert Pisano, national exec director/CEO of the Screen Actors Guild. “It’s not a good day.”

Gotham and Hollywood offices for SAG, the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists had all closed down by noon. The Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees also shut its national HQ in New York.

“Today has been devastating for our employees and members,” said AFTRA national exec director Greg Hessinger, speaking from his New Jersey home. “A lot of them know people who worked in the World Trade Center or nearby, so it’s been incredibly shocking for everyone.”

Hessinger, who had been scheduled to fly to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, said the HQ in Gotham would not reopen today, adding that the timetable “really depends on the larger situation.” AFTRA’s regional office in Washington, D.C., also will be closed today.

Post-trauma support

Hessinger said the union staff plans to work with employers in providing post-trauma support for AFTRA broadcasters covering Tuesday’s chaos.

“Today’s events are something that no one is prepared to cope with,” he noted.

SAG spokeswoman Illyanne Kichaven said the guild’s New York offices at Times Square sustained no damage.

Lisa Scarola, president of SAG’s New York branch, said blood donation centers in Gotham were jammed. “We couldn’t even get within a couple of blocks,” she said.

SAG also canceled the second day of its video-conferenced national board meeting, which had been set to resume at noon Tuesday.

SAG prexy William Daniels said he will consult with Pisano and Gotham-based national associate exec director John McGuire before announcing a new date.

The orgs said their Hollywood operations might reopen today, but execs indicated caution over when business as usual will resume. “It really will depend on what the governor and local authorities decide,” said WGA West rep Cheryl Rhoden.

Kichaven said later Tuesday that SAG plans to resume operations today at its Hollywood HQ.

Los Angeles Intl. Airport was evacuated and Los Angeles police went on tactical alert and mobilized an antiterrorist division.

Pisano, who began his first day of work at SAG Tuesday, said guild execs had recently reviewed security precautions at the Hollywood HQ and found them to be satisfactory.

“We are going to be cautious because there are no higher-profile people in the industry than our members,” he added.

SAG execs also have decided to extend today’s 5 p.m. deadline for turning in petitions for upcoming elections. Former SAG prexy William Schallert (1979-81), who has endorsed candidate Melissa Gilbert, has taken out a petition for 9th VP.

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