Top AFL-CIO officials gave leaders of striking actors unions solid backing Tuesday as their work stoppage against advertisers entered its fourth month.
“We have received assurances of continued strong support,” said Screen Actors Guild president William Daniels following a meeting in Chicago with the national executive council of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations. “They understand that all of the industry is watching and that this is a bellwether strike with tremendous repercussions.”
The meeting comes with no new negotiations scheduled and little hope of an imminent end to the dispute. Daniels and other union leaders pledged last week to increase pressure on advertisers to come off their demand to eliminate residuals for TV ads.
“We reassured the council of the continued solidarity, strength and resolve of our members,” said Daniels, who appeared with American Federation of Television & Radio Artists prexy Shelby Scott and national strike coordinator Todd Amorde.
AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka attended the council, which reps 13 million union members including the 135,000 SAG and AFTRA strikers.
Amorde said the meeting created the groundwork for much more multi-union involvement in the actors strike. “I’m very hopeful we’ll see much more joint activity,” he added.
At various points during the strike, members of the Teamsters, the Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Operating Engineers have honored actors’ picket lines. Six Teamsters were suspended last week over their refusal to cross a SAG/AFTRA picket line in Chicago at a Quaker Oats facility.
The dispute has become increasingly bitter and complicated in recent weeks with SAG’s leaders now beginning to conduct trial boards to discipline strikebreakers, who include Tiger Woods, Shaquille O’Neal and Elizabeth Hurley.
Advertisers have pointed out that they were paying union actors an aggregate $2 million a day for ad work prior to the strike and warned last week that the unions risk being permanently excluded from commercial production if they do not agree to eliminate residuals. For their part, actors accuse advertisers of union busting.
Media coverage targeted
Amorde plans to speak today in Chicago at a march and rally that will criticize the mainstream news media for its lack of coverage about the strike. Actors plan to wear black tape over their mouths at the event.
On Tuesday, about 150 union activists, including Mark Hamill, picketed a non-union casting call for a Cap’n Crunch ad Tuesday in Los Angeles. Protesters later hit a nearby shoot for a Hallmark ad.
The actors also received support Tuesday from Jay Leno, whose staff staged a comedy sketch for inclusion in the opening monologue in “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”
The sketch, in which an actor playing Ronald McDonald hit half a dozen picketers with a bat, was taped at NBC Studios in Burbank, featuring SAG members Shelley Berman, Gordon Drake, Anne-Marie Johnson, Rachel Seymour, Doug Traer and L.J. Vaughn. Drake and Traer are Hollywood strike captains, and Johnson is a SAG board member.
SAG and AFTRA have staged protests at a nearby McDonald’s outlet in Studio City for the past month over the fast-food giant’s refusal to sign an interim deal that would allow union members to perform in their ads.
Activists plan to picket a McDonald’s shoot in Hollywood today.