SAG memo warns against blacklist

Negotiations as to whether talks can resume set for June

Striking union actors have warned Gotham casting directors and producers that they may face a federal investigation if they threaten to blacklist the actors after the strike ends.

The warning, contained in a recent Screen Actors Guild memo, reflects the bitter emotions kicked up by the work stoppage against advertisers. SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists members have been active in New York during the strike, now entering its sixth week, with as many as six actions each day.

The memo, authored by New York executive director John H. Sucke, does not cite specific threats but notes that the strike is a lawful action.

Threat of charges

“Casting directors who attempt to intimidate the strikers by threatening not to employ them in the future violate the National Labor Relations Act,” Sucke wrote. “The unions will file unfair labor practice charges against any casting directors making such threats and against the producers they serve and seek to recover lost income and interest that may result from the threatened blacklisting.”

SAG activists report that the picketing and leafleting have occasionally produced angry reactions from targets, which have included casting directors who are hiring non-union talent for commercial shoots.

SAG and AFTRA have already filed one unfair labor practice complaint against the advertisers — repped by the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies and the Assn. of National Advertisers — for refusing to bargain about jurisdiction over the Internet during their seven weeks of negotiations. Those talks collapsed April 14 amid deep divisions in pay structure proposals, monitoring and the Internet.

The advertisers have also filed NLRB charges against the unions over threats to permanently bar non-members who perform struck work, along with two bad-faith bargaining accusations.

The unions have insisted they can exclude strike-breakers from future membership and reiterated that message in recent leaflets and Web site postings. “Federal law prohibits employers from interfering with the unions’ internal affairs,” they said. “Unions have the right to establish and enforce their own reasonable rules regarding qualifications for membership.”

No crossing the lines

SAG and AFTRA leaders also plan to involve other unions in coming weeks by asking unionists to honor picket lines. More than 100 New York strikers were able to persuade members of the Communications Workers of America to not cross a picket line early Friday at a Manhattan AT&T office; several hundred Los Angeles strikers demonstrated at an AT&T switching office in Burbank on Friday afternoon.

“We feel as if we’re gaining momentum,” said actress Sue-Anne Morrow, a New York strike captain.

The two sides will meet informally in New York on June 13 to explore with federal mediators whether talks can be formally re-launched. “SAG and AFTRA have definitely demonstrated how they felt so now it’s time to get back to the table and hash this out,” said Matthew Miller, president of the Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers.

Miller’s organization has maintained that producers are managing to keep up a steady pace of shooting with non-union talent and by going overseas.

The AICP will host 1,700 members on Tuesday and Wednesday for a “Creativity and Content” conference at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Miller indicated he will not be surprised if the event is picketed.

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