TV performers ratify Hollywood labor deal

Wed Jul 9, 2008 12:55am EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The smaller of Hollywood's two performers unions ratified a new prime-time TV contract on Tuesday, undermining a last-ditch bid by the larger, more militant Screen Actors Guild to secure a richer deal.

The labor pact with major studios covering 70,000 members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists won final approval despite an unusual all-out campaign by SAG urging some 40,000 actors who belong to both unions to vote down the AFTRA accord.

"A majority of members ultimately focused on what mattered -- the obvious merits of a labor agreement that contains substantial gains for every category of performer in both traditional and new media," AFTRA President Roberta Reardon said in a statement.

More than 62 percent of AFTRA members casting ballots voted in favor of the new contract, the union said. The number of ballots returned and actual vote totals were not disclosed.

While AFTRA's margin of victory was substantially less than the 90 percent range most Hollywood labor pacts attain for ratification, it was not immediately clear how much if any real additional clout SAG would gain in pressing its demands.

SAG leaders had said a "no" vote on AFTRA would give them leverage to negotiate a more favorable settlement with studios for all actors under the larger deal covering 120,000 SAG members in both prime-time television and movies.

AFTRA countered that it secured the best terms possible without a strike, including higher basic wages and new reuse fees, or "residuals," for online content, and that defeat of its deal would lead to renewed Hollywood labor unrest.

SAG's contract talks stalemated last week over some of the same issues that led to a 14-week screenwriters strike months ago, such as disagreements over how union talent should be paid for work created for the Internet.   Continued...

<p>Tourists pause on a walkway at a shopping mall which offers a view of the famed Hollywood sign at the hills in California March 14, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>