Teamsters, studios fail to break stalemate

Strike authorization vote expected Sunday

Talks between the studios and Hollywood Teamsters Local 399 ended late Friday night with no movement and no new negotiating sessions scheduled.

The union meets in Burbank early Sunday morning, where the leadership is expected to seek -- and obtain -- a strike authorization vote from members.

That authorization would, in turn, allow union leaders to call a strike at any time after the July 31 expiration of the contract between the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, representing the studios and independent producers.

The talks between the AMPTP and the union -- which lasted 12 hours -- had begun Friday morning at the AMPTP's Sherman Oaks offices without much optimism.

As THR has reported, the parties are hung up on a single issue: will the Teamsters' annual raise be 2% or 3%? For a variety of reasons -- not all of which are simply economic -- the parties are dug in, with the studios holding firm at 2% and the union at 3%.

The failed session was the parties' tenth formal meeting since bargaining began June 14, and significantly increases the possibility of a strike. It's likely there will be informal conversations over the next week between key players even after a strike authorization vote, but the prospects for a resolution prior to contract expiration are unclear.

Studio preparations
for a possible strike, already underway, are likely to accelerate over the coming week.

399 leader Leo Reed faces an electoral challenge in September for the first time in 10 years, and an observer commented earlier yesterday that Reed is taking the challenge, from longtime member Mitch Masoner, very seriously.

The web rhetoric is certainly sharp: Reed's site alleges that Masoner is "dishonest, incompetent and lazy." Masoner's argues that "business as usual for our union leaders [is] to belittle and degrade us, talk down to us, and yell at us."

Masoner's site also criticizes Reed for agreeing to a 2% increase last year for location managers, who are Local 399 members but work under a separate contract from the drivers. That contract includes a favored nations clause that would give the location managers 3% if the drivers achieve that higher figure, but Masoner's position nonetheless puts pressure on Reed not to compromise his insistence on 3% for the drivers.

The AMPTP had no comment, and a late night call to the union was not immediately returned.
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