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Teamsters accept studios' offer, averting a strike threat

July 25, 2010 | 11:20 am

Hollywood drivers on Sunday accepted a proposed contract from the studios, averting a strike that could have caused widespread disruptions to production across the country.

The vote came after last-minute negotiations Saturday yielded a compromise that mollified leaders of Teamsters Local 399, who were prepared to seek a strike authorization vote from members.

The two sides had been locked in a standoff over pay rates for more than 3,000 drivers who deliver equipment and stars to film and TV sets.

The studios offered an increase in health-plan contributions and a proposed 2% annual pay increase for drivers. Teamsters wanted a 3% increase, the same rate given to other unions, especially their rival union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargained on behalf of the studios, rejected the demand, citing the weak economy, which had buffeted DVD sales and forced cutbacks.

On Saturday, however, the studios offered some additional incentives to the Teamsters, including adding travel pay for certain types of drivers.

The dispute came at a delicate time for the studios, who are gearing up for contract negotiations this fall with the Hollywood's actors and later writers, whose contracts expire in 2011. 

It was also unusual because the Teamsters, a blue-collar union whose members also represent location managers and casting directors, generally stay below the radar and rarely engage in public standoffs with the studios, with which they've generally enjoyed a stable relationship over the last two decades. Teamsters last struck for 24 days in 1988.

Although Teamsters openly supported writers during their strike in 2007-08, they've worked closely with studios on legislative issues, such as support for California's film tax incentives and the proposed Comcast-NBC Universal merger.

-- Richard Verrier

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