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SAG/AFTRA strike support rises

Picket lines multiply as other unions increase solidarity

Striking union actors say other unions have been increasing support as the work stoppage against advertisers enters its 15th week.

“There’s a growing realization among the organized labor movement that the advertisers are out to bust our unions,” said New York strike captain Paul Reggio. “We’re seeing this as our strike starts to have an economic impact on other union members.”

With no new negotiations scheduled in the dispute, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists are counting on fellow unionists to boost pressure on the ad industry.

In addition to hitting non-union shoots, demonstrators have been picketing General Motors, AT&T and McDonald’s for shooting non-union spots and refusing to sign interim agreements with the unions.

With the idea of launching nationwide efforts, SAG and AFTRA leaders met with the national executive council of the AFL-CIO last week and will follow up with a strategy meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve certainly been heartened by the support we’ve gotten so far, and we expect to see much more of a cooperative effort,” said Jerre Hookey, SAG’s national director of organizing. “We expect to win this strike, but we have to make certain that corporate America does not get a taste in its mouth for union-busting.”

Members of the Communications Workers of America, Teamsters, Operating Engineers and Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have honored SAG and AFTRA pickets in recent weeks.

On Friday, a 12-hour picket line at Bank of America’s headquarters in San Francisco kept away members of Local 39 Stationary Engineers, along with carpenters, painters, Teamsters, delivery services and sheet-metal workers.

“We’re expecting more of that same sort of cooperation in other places,” Hookey said.

In Los Angeles and New York, SAG and AFTRA report strong support from other industry unions such as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Directors Guild of America, even though IATSE and DGA are barred from staging sympathy strikes. But leaders report that members of other Hollywood unions have provided invaluable support by supplying details of non-union shoots and walking picket lines.

In Chicago, union supporters have demonstrated repeatedly in support of six Teamsters who have been suspended for refusing to cross a SAG/AFTRA picket line at a Quaker Oats loading dock.

Reggio also noted that high-profile SAG members have continued to show up at demonstrations, pointing out that Sam Waterston attended a picket Friday of a non-union Motrin shoot in Manhattan, while Frances Fisher walked a picket line for over an hour at a Captain Crunch shoot at Venice High School.

One female SAG demonstrator was slightly injured Friday outside a non-union casting office in Los Angeles when a male actor allegedly grabbed her camera after being photographed as he entered the building.

Supporters in St. Paul, Minn., picketed Thursday through Saturday at a Kohl’s non-union shoot; demonstrators picketed a non-union Lexus shoot in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday and Sunday.

In non-strike activity Friday, SAG members teamed with the Los Angeles Eye Institute and Lenscrafters to screen and provide eyeglasses to over 200 uninsured children.

SAG and AFTRA will hold a rally expected to draw more than 1,000 members at 10 a.m. today at the Hollywood Palladium, followed by a march against a yet-to-be-named target.

Union supporters are also planning to attend city council meetings in West Hollywood tonight and in Santa Monica on Tuesday to support proposals to ban shooting of commercials on public property with non-union actors while the strike is on. Commercial producers have argued that such proposals force them to shoot in Canada and overseas.

Activists are already planning to demonstrate on Aug. 28 in Palm Desert, Calif., at the Bighorn Golf Club where Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia will stage a televised match. SAG members have been outraged over Woods’ recent taping of a non-union Buick spot in Canada.

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