Labor Conflict Drags out - Accusations Of Antitrust Heat Up

Screen Actors Guild
Screen Actors Guild

Movie and TV schedules haven't been interrupted, so it's easy to forget that Hollywood is still mired in labor conflict. Screen Actors Guild members have been working without a contract since their deal with the studios expired last summer. Now a fringe group of SAG members are pointing fingers and calling names, asking the government to investigate the antitrust practices of the media giants.

About 100 people held a rally outside the Justice Dept offices in downtown LA Thursday afternoon and sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder saying, "The self-dealing of these deregulated media conglomerates has undermined the very basic assumptions of how creative talent, other than the few at the top, can bargain for fair compensation." Scott Wilson, an actor who wrote the letter and has organized a series of rallies, argues that the media giants together have worked together to prevent the success of independent producers.

The AMPTP, which represents the major studios, is unfazed. It's strategy is to point to SAG's unfailing stubbornness despite the economic downturn and high unemployment. The two sides are still at a standoff, with no indication that they'll bridge the gap anytime soon. In the meantime actors continue to work under their old contract, negotiated nearly four years ago. Which means they don't have the advantage of the gains their sister unions negotiated last year, and the gains the AMPTP has offered them. Has the recession given AMPTP more reason to hold a hard line? Yes, probably. But since SAG hasn't, and won't, get its members to authorize a strike, the guild doesn't have much leverage.

Its amazing to think that in the midst of the most severe financial crisis in more than half a century, these two major organizations can't strike a deal. AMPTP doesn't like working under the cloud of labor uncertainty and I'm sure SAG members would love to benefit from the gains their sister unions achieved. Its unlikely the government will do a thing about its time Hollywood learns on its own how to get along.

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