Labor Beat

Volume C, No. 6June, 2000


More than 500 commercial producers have signed interim agreements with the Screen Actors Guild and the Television and Radio Artists, since 135,000 members of the two unions went out on strike against the advertising industry. Thousands of actors and their supporters rallied on May 1 in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere as the strike began (above, scenes from the New York rally).

The advertising agencies and producers of radio and television commercials want to scrap established pay formulas and they refuse to fairly address residual payments for commercials appearing on cable television and the internet, the two largest areas of growth for advertising.

“The ad industry is unwilling to bargain over the issue of commercials made directly for internet use, despite the fact that nearly every major ad agency has now established New Media divisions actively pursuing how best to utilize the internet for commercial purposes,” said John McGuire, chief SAG negotiator, and Mathis Dunn, chief AFTRA negotiator.

The unions signed 564 interim agreements – which contain the wages and working conditions it is seeking – with commercial producers during the first two weeks of the strike. “A significant number of commercial producers and their clients are ready, willing and able to pay our members the terms and provide the conditions they deserve. Some view this as a small price for helping to deliver record-breaking revenue and profits through our members’ performances in TV and radio commercials,” noted McGuire and Dunn.

The actors have drawn support from the AFL-CIO Executive Council and the Major League Baseball Players Association, which represents professional players. Among those who have refused to cross the picket lines are golfer Tiger Woods, who refused to film a Nike commercial, and Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.


Also on the picket lines in New York City are professional and administrative staff of the Museum of Modern Art. The major issues involve substandard wages (starting wages for MoMa employees is $17,000 for fulltime work); management demands for healthcare givebacks; job security (the museum is laying off workers and relocating exhibits and operations to Long Island City, during a prolonged rebuilding of its 53rd Street building. The union is fighting for a fair severance plan and the right of workers to come back to their jobs when the new museum opens); and unionbusting (the museum refuses to bargain and has threatened union supporters). For more information, contact Local 2110, UAW, at (212) 387-0220.


The workers who clean administration and classroom buildings at Cooper Union had a voice on the job and the benefits of a union contract beginning on May 1. The janitors’ union, SEIU Local 32B-32J, shamed the university into switching to a union cleaning service after a series of public actions, including a demonstration at the school’s Greenwich Village campus that got a boost from a band of Local 802 members (see April Allegro).

Under the agreement, the university will retain York Maintenance, a unionized cleaning firm. York will rehire five of the six workers who had worked for the cut-rate nonunion cleaning company Cooper Union formerly used. (The sixth has found work elsewhere.) “The workers fought hard and won their jobs back and are now getting the wages and benefits they deserve,” Local 32B-32J spokesperson Rachel Burd told Allegro.


The Teamsters’ unfair labor practice strike against Overnite Transportation Co., hit the six-month mark on April 24. Negotiations resumed for three days in Chicago in late April and were to continue May 16 and 17 in Washington, D.C. Meantime, the NLRB has ordered the trucking giant to bargain with the union at its Miami terminal, where workers voted to join IBT in 1995. The board found that Overnite had committed a number of unfair labor practices there, such as illegally subcontracting work, refusing to provide the union with certain information and unilaterally changing work rules.


California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board has certified the United Farm Workers as the union for 700 fruit pickers at the fast-growing Ventura County farms of Coastal Berry, the nation’s largest strawberry grower. The May 4 decision ends a five-year struggle that was sometimes marred by violence against union supporters.