Hollywood Actors' Unions Bitterly Part Ways

Hollywood Actors' Unions Bitterly Part Ways
George Clooney
Chris Jackson/Getty

updated 03/31/2008 at 09:00 AM EDT

originally published 03/31/2008 09:45AM

Despite a plea in February by George Clooney and fellow Oscar winners Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep to avert an actors' strike that could once again shut down the industry, the two Hollywood unions representing performers suddenly split this weekend rather than join forces, as had been hoped for.

On Saturday, just prior to a board meeting set to establish a joint negotiating strategy, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists suspended its bargaining alliance with the larger Screen Actors Guild, The New York Times reports.

The actors' current contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expires on June 30. Negotiations to fashion a new contract were to begin in two weeks.

AFTRA, which has 70,000 members (120,000 actors belong to SAG), now intends to begin talks with producers as soon as possible. In a brief statement, the studios' Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said it welcomed the opportunity.

Accusations Exchanged

This does not mean the situation is friendly. The trade paper Daily Variety reports that the divorce between the two unions is likely to "muddy the town's labor outlook."

What reportedly prompted the split was SAG's alleged attempt to step into AFTRA's waters and negotiate on behalf of the daytime soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.

"We can't trust SAG," AFTRA president Roberta Reardon told Variety. "Their leaders have engaged in a concerted effort to tarnish AFTRA's reputation and diminish our standing."

SAG president Alan Rosenberg responded by saying, "I think what AFTRA's done is unconscionable, and I'm sick of getting lectures about trust from them. I'm furious about what they've done."

From this past November to February, TV and movie production was shut down by a strike of the Writers Guild of America.

When the dispute was finally resolved (in time for the Feb. 24 Oscars to be broadcast), producers agreed to give writers a portion of profits from programs that run on the Internet. Writers also were set to receive an increase in residual payments for movies and TV shows downloaded online.

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