Bitter Big Ent union divorce threatens labor peace

Unions representing film and television actors will negotiate separately with producers in upcoming contract talks after board members of the TV actors union voted Saturday to sever a long-standing agreement between the two guilds. The vote by the board of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists came hours before a meeting with the Screen Actors Guild and just three months before the expiration of the contract covering movies and prime-time shows.

Despite a sometimes rocky 27-year relationship the unions had shown recent signs of peace as they prepared for the upcoming talks.

But instead of discussing strategies the sides swapped accusations Saturday afternoon.

"For the past year SAG leadership in Hollywood has engaged in a relentless campaign of disinformation and disparagement," AFTRA president Roberta Reardon said in a written statement.

SAG President Alan Rosenberg's written response: "AFTRA's refusal now to bargain together with us and their last-second abandonment of the joint process is calculated, cynical and may serve the interests of their institution, but not its members."

The AFTRA board said the vote to terminate the agreement, known as "Phase One," was "overwhelming."

Wary of repeating the damage wrought by the recently ended 100-day Hollywood writers strike, producers and several A-list actors including Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro had been pressing for negotiations to start as early as this week.


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