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English, Shukovsky Respond

October 11, 1992

O n Sept. 20, Calendar published a profile of Diane English, creator, with husband and partner Joel Shukovsky, of "Murphy Brown" and the new series "Love & War." The story prompted several letters from members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes (IATSE) in reference to "Love & War's" use of non-union workers. Here, English and Shukovsky respond to last week's letters:

We are angered by the media campaign being waged by the IA that attempts to portray Love & War Productions as an anti-union sweatshop that exploits its employees. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are some of the facts that IA management would prefer not be made public:

On March 23, Love & War Productions phoned the office of Harry Floyd, assistant to the president of IATSE's West Coast office, to arrange a meeting to discuss whether a contract with the IA would be workable for our independent company. The phone call was never returned. On March 24, a second attempt to reach Floyd was made, and this time a long message of intent was left with his office. Again, no return phone call.

But a month later, less than a week before we shot our pilot, six IA representatives barged onto our stage and demanded a meeting. Then, on the eve of our pilot's critical camera-blocking day, Floyd suddenly demanded that we sign a boilerplate contract immediately or he would call for a strike.

We took Floyd at his word. What followed was very painful for us and for the original crew members who were working on "Love & War." We were forced to bring in a stand-by replacement crew. But under no circumstances did we fire the original crew! We sent them home to wait by the phone in hopes that the situation could be worked out. And although we were not required to do so, we paid each and every one of them for a full day . By midnight that night, we had secured Floyd's promise not to interfere with the shooting of our pilot and we were happily able to bring our original crew back to work.

Regarding health benefits: Our crew has been promised health benefits from the get-go if "Love & War" gets a pickup for additional episodes. They know if the pickup happens, health benefits will be quickly forthcoming.

What most people do not realize is that the IA certainly doesn't hand its health benefits out on a silver platter. A new IA member must log 600 hours of employment in a six-month period to qualify for coverage. Then there's a three-month waiting period before coverage begins. And following that, the plan participant must work another 300 hours each succeeding six-month period to maintain benefits.

Ironically, if "Love & War" receives a pickup, our crew members will be receiving health coverage much faster than under the IA.

We have a very long history of supporting workers' rights, as evidenced in our television shows and in our personal lives. Our crew is being paid industry-standard wages, with the large majority receiving union scale or better. They work on one of the safest stages in Hollywood. And they are treated with caring and respect.

We have no quarrel with the hard-working members of the IA, many of whom are close friends and some of whom are employed on "Love & War." Our problem is with their arrogant and inflexible management. They have consistently turned up the heat in this situation, yelling and flailing, trying to intimidate us by planting people outside our gate who scream at our employees, "We have your license plate numbers!"

When we called the IA last spring we hoped that they would be reasonable in dealing with the concerns of our new independent production company. But they attempted to bully us into signing their standard contract. It was only when we demonstrated that we were willing and able to stand up to them that they even feigned reasonableness in their dealings with us.

The IA's harassment and pressure tactics, far too many to be detailed here, have convinced us that we have no reason to deal with them voluntarily. The fact that our crew has continued to resist the IA's organizing attempts tells us that they have reached the same conclusion.

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