Hollywood actors union seeks authority to strike

Wed Dec 10, 2008 6:38pm EST
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By Steve Gorman and Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Escalating Hollywood labor jitters, the Screen Actors Guild said on Wednesday it would hold a long-threatened strike authorization vote next month in a final bid to squeeze a better contract from major studios.

The union, which represents about 120,000 performers, said a "yes" vote by 75 percent of those returning ballots would give its governing board permission to call a strike "if and when the board determines it is necessary."

Ballots will be mailed on January 2 and counted on January 23.

The announcement came 2-1/2 weeks after a federal mediator failed to break months of stalemate in talks over SAG's main contract for film and television work.

An authorization vote does not automatically lead to a strike, but it moves Hollywood a step closer a year after a 14-week work stoppage by writers.

It also comes on the cusp of Oscar season, raising the question of whether A-list stars would be willing to boycott the film industry's highest honors on February 22 to avoid crossing union picket lines.

The sides are deadlocked principally over how much actors should be paid for film and TV content delivered over the Internet and which made-for-Web productions should be covered under the contract.

The Internet is widely seen as the main future distribution pipeline for video entertainment, and Hollywood labor leaders have sought a bigger share of Web revenues.   Continued...

<p>A general view shows the Screen Actors Guild National Headquarters in Los Angeles, July 9, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>