Talks to resume in actors' strike but no deal seen

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Commercial actors and ad industry representatives will meet this week, but neither side expects a quick ending to the 43-day-old walkout.

"The talks are exploratory,'' said John McGuinn, chief negotiator for the Joint Policy Committee of the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies. "It's not the resumption of the negotiations.''

Federal mediators called the two sides together in an effort to break the stalemate. After a meeting June 13 at New York's World Trade Center, mediators will meet separately with JPC representatives and members of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Radio & Television Artists to see if there is any "wiggle room'' on the issues, Mr. McGuinn said.

"It's probably going to be a slow process,'' said Ira Shepard, attorney for JPC and a partner at law firm Schmeltzer, Aptaker & Shepard. "At this point, what both sides would like is communication.''


Many advertisers had been airing commercials that were produced before the strike began May 1. Now, some marketers are taking unusual steps to freshen their ads.

DaimlerChrysler's Dodge unit plans to create new spots, but its spokesman -- actor and SAG member Edward Herrmann -- won't cross the picket line. So Dodge's advertising agency, BBDO Worldwide, Southfield, Mich., pieced together voice-over work Mr. Herrmann did before the strike.

Some smaller advertisers are going the non-union route. WebMiles, an online loyalty program company, used non-union talent to film a 30-second spot that breaks June 12. GMO/Hill, Holliday, San Francisco, handles WebMiles.


Major radio production companies, however, are getting hit hard -- some have seen business drop at least 25% in the last month. That's despite the fact that many signed SAG/AFTRA interim agreements that give them use of union talent during the strike.

"I had to furlough some people because some of the big, strong agencies don't want union voices'' during the strike, said Bert Berdis, chairman of Bert Berdis & Co., Los Angeles.

The striking unions picketed a number of locations last week, including Universal Studios, which has filmed spots for Ford Motor Co. and Nabisco.

The unions cautioned talent agents against sending non-union performers to shoots. SAG and AFTRA warned that if agents do that, they would revoke that agency's certification to represent union actors.

Also last week, JPC amended its unfair labor practice charge against the unions, pending before the National Labor Relations Board, to include illegal surveillance. The unions filmed actors who walked onto an H.J. Heinz Co. shoot two weeks ago in Chicago.

Contributing: Amanda Beeler and Automotive News' Julie Cantwell.

Copyright June 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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