Teamsters geared up for talks

Union, builder locals ready to hammer out crafts deal

Teamsters drivers and four construction locals — representing more than 6,000 blue-collar jobs in Hollywood — soon will begin early talks on a new basic crafts contract.

The current deal expires in July.

Although such pacts have generally been for three years, it's possible that the Teamsters will shoot for a two-year agreement to sync it with the IATSE contract expiring in 2009. That could give them more clout in future contract talks and simplify the negotiating of uniform health benefits among all of the blue-collar unions.

Officials at Studio Transportation Drivers Teamsters Local 399, which has more than 3,500 members, declined to say precisely when the talks might begin or to discuss negotiating strategy.

"I'm looking forward to early negotiations, and I'm optimistic for an early resolution to keep Hollywood working," said Local 399 secretary-treasurer Leo Reed, who will lead the basic crafts negotiations.

Sources said it's likely that the talks will begin next month.

The other craft unions are Studio Utility Employees Local 724, comprised of 1,250 laborers, landscapers and furniture movers; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local, with about 700 members; Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Assn. Local 755, with more than 250 members; and Plumbers Local 78, with about 80 Hollywood-employed members.

"I'm very optimistic about commencing early negotiations and also that we're going to be able to come to an agreement," Local 724 secretary-treasurer Earl Brendlinger said.

A spokeswoman for the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers declined comment on the basic crafts talks.

The AMPTP tends to resist the shortening of contract lengths. But observers suggested that's not to say the management group couldn't be persuaded to allow such a move in this situation.

"They've tended to worry over any possibility of a walkout by the IA and the basic crafts and the Teamsters all at once, but there would have to be a real calamity to cause anything like that," mused one labor-community source.

On the other hand, the Teamsters haven't been shy about disrupting operations on their own, when necessary.

In November, when its organizing efforts were met with initial resistance from producers of reality show "America's Next Top Model," Local 388 responded with a quick job action. Within a week, the show announced a collective bargaining agreement with the Teamsters.