Movie stars clash in Hollywood union brawl

Wed Jun 25, 2008 8:31pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Movie stars accustomed to polite rivalry for coveted film roles and Oscar glory are taking sides in an increasingly bitter labor dispute between Hollywood's two actors unions.

The larger and more militant Screen Actors Guild this week enlisted such high-profile members as Jack Nicholson, Ben Stiller and Nick Nolte in its campaign to scuttle a contract negotiated by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Other A-list performers, including Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin and Sally Field, who won an Oscar for her role as a sweatshop union organizer in "Norma Rae," sided last week with AFTRA in publicly urging that union's 70,000 members to ratify the labor pact.

The dispute is ratcheting up tensions in Hollywood over the possibility of actors walking off the job this summer, just as the film and TV industry is still recovering from a 14-week writers strike that ended in February.

SAG leaders say AFTRA's tentative labor deal, covering work on prime-time television, is fatally flawed and undercuts SAG's position in its own contract talks with the studios on a broader TV and motion pictures contract.

Both contracts expire on June 30, though SAG leaders say they are prepared to negotiate past that deadline if necessary to get a deal.

Meanwhile, they are going all out to persuade some 40,000 of SAG's 140,000 members who belong to both unions to vote "no" on the proposed AFTRA settlement, and have suggested the two unions could reunite afterward to bargain jointly.

UNION SPLIT   Continued...

<p>A sculptor works at a sand park exhibition in Pera, southern Portugal in this May 4, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Hugo Correia</p>