Hollywood braced for Teamsters walkout

Wed Jul 21, 2010 12:46am EDT
 
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By Carl DiOrio and Jonathan Handel

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Television would be hit hardest if Hollywood transportation workers go on strike for the first time in 22 years next month when their current labor agreement expires, according to industry observers.

Upward of 20 shows are in production ahead of the fall television season, and production executives are puzzling over ways of getting actors and others on and off their lots without crossing picket lines.

"If (a strike) were to happen, it would be hugely unfortunate," said Ed Bernero, executive producer on the CBS series "Criminal Minds."

It's possible the Teamsters would agree to work under a contract extension even if their pact expires August 1 without a new agreement in place, but the union's Hollywood Local 399 is expected to take a strike-authorization vote during a general membership meeting on Sunday morning.

That would arm Local leaders with the ability to walk at any point after the midnight expiration of the Local's current "Black Book" agreement a week from Saturday.

The transportation union's talks with Hollywood studios involve proposals for a new two- or three-year contract but have hit an impasse over money terms. The Teamsters want annual raises of 3%; management is offering 2% yearly boosts. The studios would prefer a three-year deal but are offering two years at the union's request, which would allow the Teamsters to synch up their contract expiration with the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees. That, in turn, would give the Teamsters more input into contract matters affecting the pension and health plan that covers members of both unions.

Negotiators for the union and employers remain in touch this week ahead of the next formal bargaining session, set for Friday morning, and another session could be scheduled for next week. An additional session would seem only natural, as a successful strike-authorization vote would enhance the union's hand at the bargaining table, and management appears inclined to agree to continued talks.

The contract negotiations started June 14, and the parties' failure to agree on terms has prompted handicapping around town of the chances of a Teamsters strike.   Continued...