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Strike Panel Says Ban Scabs for Life

The strike committee for the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Radio and Television Artists has formally recommended that the unions deny membership to actors who have performed commercial struck work.

The committee is also calling for future membership applications to include a question asking applicants if they performed struck work. If the actors answer falsely, and the union later discovers it, the union can revoke the actors' memberships.

The two unions' national boards will consider the committee's recommendation at their next meetings.

Also, noted actor Philip Bosco has written a letter to fellow Actors' Equity Association members calling the ad industry's efforts "an attempt at union-busting, pure and simple."

While SAG and AFTRA leaders have spoken of union-busting, Bosco's statement comes at a particularly sensitive time.

First, Bosco will serve as special host at a major informational meeting on the strike Thurs., Sept. 7, for every cast member on Broadway and Off-Broadway. The meeting, from 4:30-6 pm at the Royale Theatre at 242 W. 45th St., will feature the SAG-AFTRA negotiating team, strike headquarters reps, and Actors' Equity officers. They will all provide strike updates and answer questions.

Second, union and industry negotiators will return to the bargaining table on Wed., Sept. 13 in New York. So strong attendance by Equity members at this week's informational meeting, with "union-busting" on the audience's mind, could go far in cementing solidarity of the performers' unions as negotiators walk back into the talks next week.

In his letter, Bosco noted that he, like many Equity members, is a member of all three performers' unions, and from time to time depends on commercials to supplement his income.

"But whether or not you have ever worked extensively in the commercial field, this strike concerns you and every member of Actors' Equity," Bosco wrote.

"As this strike drags into its fifth month, it has become increasingly obvious that we are no longer faced with just an intractable labor negotiation," Bosco continued. "This is an attempt at union-busting, pure and simple.

"It's in all our best interests to help assure that SAG and AFTRA can negotiate a decent, fair contract," he added. "If management succeeds in its effort to weaken the commercials contract and roll back our pay, the pressure on other contracts will only intensify. Our own production contract, the SAG theatrical contract, and the upcoming negotiations of the WGA and the DGA will all be negatively impacted."

SAG and AFTRA's film and TV pact expires next June. The Writers Guild of America's film-TV contract ends May 1. The Directors Guild of America approved a three-year film-TV agreement in July 1999, but the DGA last month began bargaining its commercials pact with the Association of Independent Commercial Producers. That agreement ends in October.

Major studios in Hollywood have scheduled most of their productions for completion before April, anticipating a film-TV contract strike by both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. WGA West's board candidates last week all issued statements calling a strike a real possibility. William Daniels, SAG's national president, and Greg Hessinger, AFTRA's national executive director, have both said their unions are willing to work with film and TV producers to reach a fair pact, but have not ruled out a strike.

A Letter of Recognition

Meanwhile, SAG's Daniels has written to his 100,000 SAG members congratulating them for their "determination, ingenuity, strength, and solidarity" during the commercials strike.

Daniels made clear he recognizes the sacrifice and suffering by actors, and also talent agents. He also noted that frustrations caused by the historically long strike may have some members "looking for someone to blame; but remember, if we had accepted the offer of the advertisers, we would have forever eliminated the ability of actors to make a living shooting commercials."

Stressing the importance of solidarity, Daniels said, "Each and every one of us is an actor, and we have no one but each other to rely on for strength and support. We must spend all the effort we can into working together and trusting one another…

"The other side has always been counting on splintering our membership," Daniels added. "They are using every tactic to undermine our faith in each other, our solidarity, and to thereby try to defeat us. We will never let that happen."

A Gold Ribbon of Solidarity

The two striking unions' leaders have also sent letters and gold solidarity ribbons to Emmy nominees, asking them to wear the ribbons during the Sept. 10 broadcast of the Primetime Emmy Awards.

If the nominees consent, they could help make union solidarity highly visible, not only through the Emmy broadcast, but through the plethora of TV interviews nominees and winners will conduct following the show.

"Obviously, with the Emmys only three days before negotiations, it makes sense for us to get as much exposure as possible," SAG communications spokesman Greg Kuzman said.

Bush Agrees in Interim

George W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, now includes the SAG-AFTRA interim agreement within his "compassionate conservatism."

Maverick Media has signed the agreement on behalf of the Bush campaign. Mark McKinnon, the firm's president and media director of Bush for President, issued a statement saying, "Thanks to a cooperative effort, we were able to reach an understanding that made us comfortable proceeding forward under the terms of the agreement."

With Maverick's signing, SAG has withdrawn unfair labor practice charges it filed in early August against the Stevens & Schriefer Group, another media consulting firm working for the Bush campaign.

But the unions are not done before the National Labor Relations Board. They recently filed a series of unfair labor-practice charges against advertisers, ad agencies, and production companies, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Those charged include advertisers Procter & Gamble, K-Mart, and major agency BBD&O, who the unions say "intimidated and coerced" striking picketers.

The claims include two striking actors being "physically assaulted" while picketing New York spot shoots for Amstel Light and Pizza Hut. Spokesmen for Amstel and BBD&O (Pizza Hut) either declined comment or pled ignorance to the allegations.

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