Gotham get-together set for strike foes

Ad reps, striking thesps agree to Sept. talk date

Striking union actors and advertisers have agreed to meet Sept. 13 in New York in an attempt to resolve their bitter dispute.

The meeting, sought by reps of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, will be the first since an unproductive two-day session in mid-July. The strike by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists enters its 109th day today and is already two weeks longer than any previous work stoppage.

John McGuinn, chief negotiator for the ad industry, said it was unclear whether the talks will lead to formal negotiations. But he declared he was hopeful that the session will lead to a settlement.

“I don’t know exactly what the mediators have in mind, but I am hopeful about the outcome because this has gone on for so long,” he said. “I would think it would be logical to conclude this because the situation is not going to get better.”

Union negotiators pointed out that they had sought an Aug. 30 meeting, but were unable to persuade ad reps to agree to that date. “We would have liked to have met earlier, just as we would have liked to continue negotiating in July,” spokesman Greg Krizman said.

The mediators have requested that members of various smaller negotiating committees attend the Sept. 13 session, with no other dates scheduled yet.

The key issues to be resolved are the advertisers’ demand for elimination of residuals for network ads and the unions’ demands for cable residuals, a monitoring systems and Internet jurisdiction.

“We’ve got tough issues to resolve,” admitted John McGuire, SAG’s chief negotiator. “We’re going to go back with an open mind, and I would expect the other side to do the same.”

Wednesday’s agreement to set up the meeting came as the joint negotiating committee for SAG and AFTRA met at SAG’s Los Angeles headquarters. It also came amid launches of ramped-up efforts against AT&T, Procter & Gamble and General Motors Corp. over shooting non-union ads during the strike.

On Wednesday, the unions picketed an AT&T switching station in Manhattan and leafleted at an AT&T-sponsored party at Spago’s in Beverly Hills. Pickets also hit a GM shoot in Waukeegan, Ill.

Additionally, the organizations were planning to picket at GM’s Renaissance Center corporate headquarters in Detroit beginning at 6 a.m. today.

Union leaders also reported a better-than-expected turnout Tuesday evening in Manhattan for a party organized by Paul Newman and Jason Robards to involve high-profile members in strike activities.

“They believe that corporate America is trying to eliminate residuals in order to bust SAG and AFTRA and they plan to announce specific plans in a week to 10 days,” strike captain Paul Christie said.

Also attending were Harry Belafonte, Kathleen Turner, F. Murray Abraham, Blythe Danner, Joanne Woodward, Sam Waterston, Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Linda Fiorentino, Ashley and Naomi Judd, Greg Kinnear, Marisa Tomei, Adrian Pasdar and Bebe Neuwirth.

“The heavy hitters are really stepping up to the plate,” strike captain Paul Reggio said.

In Los Angeles, members of the union’s Arts Cultural Task Force hosted a reception for Democratic delegates, including Reps. Howard Berman, John Conyers and Michael McNulty.

“I plan to start speaking out in support of the actors,” Conyers said. “In these disputes, reason sometimes goes out the window.”

High-profile members at the event included Diane Ladd, Valerie Harper, Tess Harper, Ed Asner, Lindsay Wagner, Nancy Sinatra, Mariette Hartley, Frances Fisher and Laura Dern.

The unions also disclosed that skateboard star Tony Hawk has shot an Activision video game ad under a union-approved interim agreement.

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