Writers Guild to resume bargaining with producers

Tuesday, April 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Even as the Writers Guild of America prepared to resume bargaining Tuesday with film and television producers, the chief Teamsters Union official in Hollywood suggested his members will continue working if the writers strike.

``If it comes down to it, my members come first,'' Leo Reed, head of Teamsters Local 399 in North Hollywood, told the Los Angeles Times. ``We usually honor other locals' picket lines. But if there is a writers strike and there is work to be done, I'll support my members.''

The comments are the latest in a series of developments that could bring new pressure on television and film writers to settle their contract dispute with the studios.

Concerns have been raised about a strike at a time when the economy is softening, and efforts are underway by other Hollywood unions to avert a work stoppage. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan has announced a public relations campaign to avert the strike.

The contract for the WGA's 11,000 members expires May 1. Talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers broke off last month with no agreement.

Contracts for two unions representing actors _ the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists _ also expire June 30. Industry leaders have been following the writers' talks as an indication for how the actors' negotiations will proceed.

The recent developments have created a new glimmer of optimism.

``The probability of us settling this thing is better than 50 percent. We have smart people on both sides, and we both have an incentive to fix this,'' said Charles Holland, co-chairman of the writers guild's negotiating committee.

The WGA is asking for more money for writers when programs are rebroadcast domestically and in foreign markets and when shows are distributed on video, DVD and the Internet.

The West Coast division of the writers guild already has set up a loan fund of nearly $10 million for its members in case of a strike.

The actors' unions, which cover 135,000 performers, have not yet made their contract demands public.

The Teamsters local represents nearly 4,000 workers in Hollywood who perform jobs that would be jeopardized by a walkout. Reed's comments underscore the historic tensions between Hollywood's labor guilds and its blue-collar workers, who complain actors and writers have failed to support them during their strikes.

A WGA official declined to comment on Reed's statements.

The nonprofit Los Angeles County Development Corp. has said a work stoppage would mean losses of about $457 million a week for Hollywood and related businesses in Southern California.