Hollywood’s labor unions face an uncomfortable autumn following Arnold Schwarzenegger’s announcement Monday of what’s expected to be a ferociously fought special state election in November.
The election places the entertainment unions in a potential no-win situation. They can either sit out what’s perceived as a direct attack on the labor movement or they can attack one of the entertainment industry’s most powerful and iconic figures, which may end hopes of working with the governor to gain support for tax relief to slow runaway production.
Schwarzenegger pledged to take the campaign to the voters in a contest that’s certain to draw raucous opposition from labor unions.
“The people are the ones who can cut through the chains of politics and the past,” Schwarzenegger said from his office in Sacramento as hundreds of protesters chanted slogans outside the Capitol. “It is from the people that a democracy gets its strength.”
In addition to the three Schwarzenegger proposals — legislative redistricting, budget and teacher tenure — the election will also involve five other initiatives. What’s particularly galling to unions is a so-called Paycheck Protection proposal to restrict how public-employee labor unions spend membership dues.
Hollywood labor movement leaders have become increasingly angered at Schwarzenegger’s hostility toward unions, but whether SAG, AFTRA, WGA, DGA, IATSE and the Teamsters will participate in the upcoming campaign isn’t yet certain.
None have been willing to make such statements on the record. “We’re on a slippery slope,” one official noted.
However, all the Hollywood unions except the WGA and DGA belong to the AFL-CIO, which is expected to campaign aggressively against the proposals.
SAG has already voiced its displeasure after Schwarzenegger shot an ad for the campaign with non-union actors. In a statement last week, the guild admitted that Schwarzenegger’s appearance in the commercial in his capacity as governor was not a technical violation of guild rules.