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Hollywood’s Unions Battle It Out
June 9, 2008

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

Things were already tense between the two unions that represent Hollywood actors.

But now the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) will lobby members who also belong to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), to try to get them to vote “no” on the deal that AFTRA has negotiated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

It appears as though SAG is attempting to sabotage AFTRA’s deal because SAG claims that the proposed agreement isn’t good enough for actors.

The pressure is on because SAG is facing a fast approaching deadline involving its present contract with the studios. The current agreement expires June 30, 2008.

SAG plans to launch what it calls an “educational campaign” to oppose the AFTRA deal. AFTRA has fired back at SAG, calling its actions “unprecedented interference in the internal affairs of another union.”

SAG is the bigger union, with 122,000 members to AFTRA’s 70,000.

Plenty of screen actors look down on recording artists, radio and television announcers, and actors who work on daytime soaps and cable television news shows.

Forty-four thousand actors carry membership cards for both unions. These are the folks SAG is trying to persuade to vote down the AFTRA deal.

Personally, I’m a member of AFTRA, but I can sympathize with SAG’s hoity-toity, overbearing and puffed up point of view.

Clint Eastwood, Spike Lee Exchange Barbs

Talk about friction. Clint Eastwood and Spike Lee have been having a go of it exchanging barbs.

What's the reason for their spat? Oddly, they’re having a war of words over war movies.

While out promoting his own war flick, “Miracle at St. Anna,” which features a World War II unit comprised of African-American soldiers, Lee complained about the absence of African-American actors in Eastwood's films, “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters From Iwo Jima.”

Lee told the press, “That was his [Eastwood’s] version. The negro version did not exist.”

Eastwood gave a “Dirty Harry”-type response. He told Lee to “shut his face.” The steely actor-director told the U.K. Guardian that, in the “Flags of Our Fathers” storyline and famed flag-raising picture, “they [African-American GIs] didn't do that. If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people go ‘This guy's lost his mind.’ I mean, it's not accurate.”

Lee pulled out all the stops in his response to Eastwood.

“First of all, the man is not my father and we're not on a plantation either,” he told ABC News. “I didn't personally attack him, and a comment like ‘a guy like that should shut his face . . .’ come on Clint, come on. He sounds like an angry old man.”

Spike went on to say that he could get together a group of African-American soldiers who fought at Iwo Jima, and that Clint could tell them “what they did was insignificant and they did not exist.”

“I'm not making this up. I know history. I'm a student of history. And I know the history of Hollywood and its omission of the 1 million African-American men and women who contributed to World War II,” Lee noted.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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