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Actors' union facing internal labor dispute [update]

September 21, 2010 |  5:50 pm

Hollywood's actors unions will begin early contract negotiations with the major studios next week in the hopes of averting a standoff.

But one of the two principal unions involved in the talks — the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists — is confronting the embarrassing prospect of a potential labor dispute within its own ranks.

Nearly a dozen business representatives within the union, who are represented by the Teamsters, have been working under an expired contract since Sept. 5.

The business reps, who service about 37,000 members in the Los Angeles local, are seeking 4% annual pay increases. AFTRA has balked at the demand and offered pay increases between 2% and 2.5%, similar to what Teamsters Local 399 recently secured in a new contract covering studio drivers.

On Tuesday, Teamsters Local 399 took the unusual step of issuing a statement about the protracted negotiations noting the increased work load business reps have taken on in recent years as AFTRA has rapidly expanded its reach into prime-time television shows. Local 399 said that 90% of the last two season's new broadcast television series have been produced under AFTRA. Previously, the Screen Actors Guild had the lion's share of the contracts.

A spokesman for AFTRA declined to comment.

SAG recently reached an agreement with its business representatives, who are represented by a different Teamsters local.

Update: After talks between the sides ended Wednesday, AFTRA said in a statement that it was ready to resume negotiations on Sept. 29 after reviewing the union's latest proposal. "AFTRA remains willing to reach a fair and reasonable agreement for our employees and is confident that Local 399 shares that goal," AFTRA Los Angeles Executive Director William F. Thomas said in the statement.

— Richard Verrier