December 10, 2008 / 5:39 PM / 10 years ago

Hollywood actors union seeks authority to strike

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The main union representing U.S. film and television actors said on Wednesday it would mail ballots to members in January seeking authorization for a strike over a new contract.

The Screen Actors Guild, which represents about 120,000 performers, said a “Yes” vote by 75 percent of those voting would authorize its board 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, SAG said.

The move, following months of failed talks and federal mediation with television and movie studios on a new contract, brings closer the prospect of a damaging strike in the industry just a year after a 14-week stoppage by Hollywood screenwriters.

The screenwriters strike in late 2007 and early 2008 brought prime-time TV production to a halt and cost the Los Angeles economy an estimated $3 billion.

SAG leaders have held out for a better deal than those approved by other Hollywood unions in the past year, but the studios have refused to budge.

One of the sticking points has been how much actors should be paid for content delivered over the Internet — a fast-growing sector for television and movie products.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the major studios said in a statement on Wednesday that SAG members were being asked to “bail out a failed negotiating strategy by going on strike during one of the worst economic crises in history.”

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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