Commercial Advertisers Claim Actors Violate Labor Law By "Shooting" Strike Breakers

News   Commercial Advertisers Claim Actors Violate Labor Law By "Shooting" Strike Breakers After watching numerous celebrities campaign aggressively on behalf of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), the Joint Policy Committee representing commercial advertising interests has weighed in with an announcement proclaiming that SAG "continues to violate the National Labor Relations Act." The actors and commercial advertising interests have been at odds in negotiation and are involved in a five-month strike.

After watching numerous celebrities campaign aggressively on behalf of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), the Joint Policy Committee representing commercial advertising interests has weighed in with an announcement proclaiming that SAG "continues to violate the National Labor Relations Act." The actors and commercial advertising interests have been at odds in negotiation and are involved in a five-month strike.

Citing an op-ed piece in the Sept. 29 New York Times and citing various aspects of the labor relations law, the JPC says it has provided "this and other evidence to the National Labor Relations Board."

The JPC implies that the "photographing of strikers or strike breakers and threats of future [sic] retribution have long been held to be violations...as unlawful coercion of an individual's right to strike or not strike."

Daniel Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers is a spokesperson for that industry group, from which the JPC takes its membership. Jaffe told Playbill On-Line that while "persuasion is certainly allowed, coercion is not allowed" on the strike line.

The JPC made its announcement following a letter to the editors of The New York Times from a woman who said she felt harassed about doing non-union work on a commercial. There would seem to be some room for debate about the legitimacy of taking photographs on a strike line. In June, a female SAG volunteer was attacked by another woman when the volunteer sought to take both her picture and that of a male companion who had refused SAG's overtures and opted to cross the picket line and do a non-union commercial.

As reported then, Norman Siegel of the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) New York office told Playbill On-Line that he sometimes recommends to demonstrators that they videotape their actions to provide a record of events. "I am not sure about the California law," Siegel said, "but in New York a citizen has the right to take pictures of someone else unless it's for commercial gain. The young woman [SAG volunteer] was within her legal rights and the woman who assaulted her violated her rights, assuming they [SAG] were just taking the photograph to show who was crossing a picket line.

"Should SAG misuse a photograph that it takes on the strike line," Siegel said, "the party concerned could fight back on the merits, but you don't prohibit someone taking a picture."

Siegel said that unions, which are often struggling for power, historically want to record who was a "scab" and document who actually crossed over a picket line. "They have a right to use that photograph within limits and to inform people as to who did what. You may remember the schoolteacher strike in the late '60s. Even today, I still hear people identified by others saying, `I remember her, she went in,' or `she stayed out' and that strike took place 30 years ago. So, if that's all they're (SAG) doing it for, which is to document and record who went in across the strike line, then I see nothing inappropriate."

ANA's Jaffe said that there was non-union work on commercials even before the strike and that when union people suggest they have the power to control who gets hired and fired it is not true. Jaffe also took exception with shoot disruption tactics that he attributes to the union. "It's one thing to picket and another thing to physically go in and disrupt shoots," he said.

-- By Murdoch McBride