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No End in Sight As Actors' Strike Enters 5th Week

Prospects for a speedy resolution to the actors' strike against advertisers have evaporated with neither side showing any inclination to budge as the work stoppage enters its fifth week.

Both sides insist the other must soften its bargaining stance even though the last negotiations took place on April 14. Federal mediators have attempted and failed to restart talks several times since the strike began on May 1.

Key issues for actors remain replacing cable ad buyouts with a residuals structure, creating a monitoring system and establishing jurisdiction over Internet ads. Advertisers are insisting on replacing the network residuals structure with flat-rate buyouts.

"There has been no change in our position," said John McGuinn, chief negotiator for the advertisers. Producers insist they are generating the same volume of commercial spots by using non-union talent as prior to the strike.

"We are rock solid in terms of unity," Screen Actors Guild (SAG) board member Chuck Sloan countered. Yet several professional football players and Gen. Colin Powell have defied the strike and shot commercials in recent weeks.

SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (AFTRA) have continued to picket at commercial shoots, casting offices and ad agencies. They also claim to have signed 1,364 "interim agreements," which allow union actors to work under the terms that SAG and AFTRA last proposed.

Advertisers point out that unions have identified only three signers and that no major ad agencies or advertisers have given in on this point. But union leaders believe many of the signers are affiliates of major companies.

If not for the interim agreements, the actors would be losing up to $2 million a day.

The strike has also caused a reduction in commercial shooting at off-lot locations in Los Angeles County. Industry liaison agency the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. reported the number of production days between May 1 and May 22 totaled 350 days, down 50 days or 12.5% from the same period last year.

The actual total of shooting may be lower since some commercial producers have recommended taking out more permits than actually needed in order to deceive union picketers. Advertisers have contended that, by using non-union talent and locations outside the traditional centers such as Los Angeles and New York, they have kept the overall total of commercial activity at the same level as prior to the strike.

With the typical commercial shoot operating with daily budgets of up to $500,000, the strike's direct economic impact on Los Angeles County could amount to as much $25 million.

Advertisers claim to have paid actors $722 million for commercial work last year.

The unions plan an "affirmative action/diversity" march Wednesday to picket at Sprint's corporate offices in Los Angeles and at several ad agencies. Leaders plan to continue protesting over a mocking ad in Shoot magazine showing the breasts of an elderly naked woman, even though creator RSA has apologized and three execs have resigned.

"If RSA wants to remain on the A-list for actors, it needs to sign an interim agreement," said SAG board member Anne-Marie Johnson, a regular on "JAG."


Dave McNary, May 29, 2000, (Variety)

Copyright © 1999 Variety, Inc.. All rights reserved.