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Nearly 300 NPR on-air journalists and producers met Friday and voted to ask the SAG-AFTRA national board of directors to approve a strike-authorization referendum to be sent to the NPR workers if the negotiators deem it necessary, the union said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
The move takes the union one step closer to a strike that would idle about 430 NPR workers. The fact that three-quarters of the bargaining unit attended the meeting appears to reflect a high degree of concern of among NPR staff. SAG-AFTRA contends that management is trying to disempower the union altogether by demanding rollbacks, instituting a two-tier salary system and eliminating the union’s ability to enforce various contract clauses through arbitration.
The existing contract expired June 30 but was extended until Friday night. It’s been extended a further 24 hours, and talks are continuing, a SAG-AFTRA representative told THR Saturday morning.
The union’s national board is meeting Saturday and is expected to take up the NPR workers’ request — most likely the board will vote in favor — and also to endorse the recently negotiated TV/theatrical deal with Hollywood studios and send it to the membership as a whole.
A strike-authorization vote is not in itself a vote to strike, but it would up the ante and be a further move in the direction of a walkout.
Board members arriving at the union’s Los Angeles offices Saturday morning will be met by protesters from the stunt community, who are unhappy with aspects of the new deal. Emotions among the tightly knit community are likely to be particularly raw, in light of the death of John Bernecker this week in Georgia. The Walking Dead stuntman died from a grievous head injury suffered in an on-set accident.
The stunt workers’ protest comes as SAG-AFTRA’s election season kicks into high gear, with incumbent president Gabrielle Carteris, a member of the Unite for Strength slate, facing off against Membership First’s Esai Morales and a former MF member, stuntman Pete Antico. The election is expected to be contentious, reflecting strong passions among the union’s various factions.
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