Unions urge actors to continue strike actions

Turning up the heat

NEW YORK — The chief negotiators for striking actors have urged union members to step up their efforts in the 33-day work stoppage against advertisers.

“Now is not the time to slow the pace,” said John McGuire, chief negotiator for the Screen Actors Guild, and Mathis Dunn, chief negotiator for the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. “Now’s the time we must escalate our efforts.”

The proclamation, posted on the Web sites for both organizations, came a day after the negotiators had agreed to informal meetings with advertisers reps on June 13 at the behest of federal mediators.

Advertisers have insisted that they have managed to keep up the pace of commercial shooting despite picketing by the unions at production locations, ad agencies and casting offices in Los Angeles and New York. Union leaders say that production in the two major centers has dwindled.

Protests at agencies, AT&T

On Thursday, SAG/AFTRA protesters in New York City staged demonstrations at Messner Advertising, Saatchi & Saatchi and Y&R. The unions plan demonstrations today in several cities against AT&T because of the telecom giant’s refusal to sign interim agreements that would allow union members to work on their commercials.

McGuire and Dunn said more than 1,400 such interim agreements have been signed although they continued to refuse to identify the signers beyond the three previously announced political consulting firms. The negotiators claimed that a major cosmetics company and a soft drink firm have inked interim deals with the unions.

“We must keep applying pressure and leverage to advertisers and advertising agencies,” McGuire and Dunn said. “Let there be no doubt that it will be ‘business as usual’ only for those employers who have signed an interim agreement.”

SAG spokesman Greg Krizman said AT&T had been chosen as a “national” target by the unions for its “aggressive” pace of shooting commercials with nonunion talent during the strike along with its membership on the board of the Assn. of National Advertisers.

Krizman also said the picketing of AT&T is designed to encourage members of the Communications Workers of America union to honor the picket lines. CWA is part of the AFL-CIO, which has pledged to support the actors’ strike.

L.A. production down

In a sign that the strike is cutting into commercials in Los Angeles County, the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. has reported that the number of production days for May totalled only 418, for a decline of 23% from May 1999.

The numbers of days calculated by the EIDC, which issues permits for off-lot shooting, may be lower since some producers are believed to be filing for more locations than they are using in order to deceive union picketers.

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