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Stars spearhead PR blitz to support strike

Strategy includes aggressive TV talkshow appearances

HOLLYWOOD — High-profile union actors, headed by Paul Newman and Jason Robards, have launched a two-week public relations blitz prior to the resumption of negotiations between striking actors and advertisers.

Strategy, which includes aggressively seeking out appearances on television talkshows, is an outgrowth of the 2-week-old steering committee formed by Gotham-based celebrities to support the strike by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (Daily Variety, Aug. 18).

Union members have hired ID Public Relations to book recognizable thesps during the period leading up to the resumption of bargaining in New York on Sept. 13. The strategy was unveiled at a Monday night meeting at the Quinteros Theater in Manhattan attended by Kevin Bacon, Philip Bosco, Billy Crudup, Richard Dreyfuss, Celeste Holm, Robert Klein, Julianna Margulies, Bebe Neuwirth, Mary-Louise Parker, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Kyra Sedgwick.

Cause celebs

Strike captain Paul Reggio said the issues in the strike, particularly the demand by advertisers to replace residuals for network TV ads with upfront buyout payments, have resonated with the celebs. The ad industry, which has not changed its bargaining position since mid-April, has insisted that the residuals system — in which actors are compensated based on the number of times a spot runs — is outmoded and needs to be modernized.

“Although many of our high-profile members don’t do ads, the industry’s proposal to eliminate residuals has been a driving force behind this effort,” Reggio said. “They recognize how important it is for us to get our message out — that actors need to be paid when their ad appears.”

The committee is also planning a Sept. 7 event on Broadway with the goal of evoking support from theater performers who are members of Actors Equity, and they plan to show up in force when negotiations resume six days later. The unions had called off staging nearby demonstrations when negotiators met in June and July.

“There will definitely be a celebrity presence outside the negotiations,” Reggio said. “If the ad industry negotiators decide to leave the meeting, they’ll have to walk past Paul Newman.”

GM protests continue

The unions, now in their 120th day of the work stoppage, continued their campaign Tuesday against General Motors with demonstrations at GM regional headquarters in Manhattan; a GM truck production center in Auburn Hills, Mich.; and a truck assembly plant in Janesville, Wis. SAG and AFTRA have blasted the automaker for shooting nonunion spots, including a Tiger Woods ad for Buick.

About two dozen pickets hit the Wisconsin plant, where the Yukon sport utility vehicle is produced, and reported that several trucks refused to make deliveries even though most of the drivers servicing the plant are nonunion. GM rep Peg Holmes said the 25 pickets at the Michigan site had no impact on operations.

In Los Angeles, the unions leafleted Tuesday at several casting offices and plan to resume their long-running picket at a Hollywood McDonald’s today. The fast-food chain has been singled out, along with GM and AT&T, in recent weeks as a way of pressuring ad industry negotiators to reach a settlement.

SAG officials also disclosed that the campaign for Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader has signed an interim agreement with the union, which allows SAG members to perform in spots. The campaigns for Al Gore and George W. Bush signed such deals early in the strike, but the Bush campaign subsequently repudiated that action by shooting a pair of nonunion ads.

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