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VENTURA | VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS

Mike Hammer Show Crew Members Strike

September 17, 1997|DAVID GREENBERG

Dozens of crew members on the set of the "Mike Hammer: Private Eye" television series went on strike Tuesday seeking pay and benefit increases.

But the strikers, some of whom are not members of a labor union, may lose their jobs, because the production company has hired permanent replacements.

Richard Kopenhefer, a Century City lawyer representing Mike Hammer Productions Inc., said his client will not bargain with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees until after crew members have voted to approve joining the union. No vote has been scheduled.

He said the union orchestrated the daylong strike, which began at 7 a.m., without any warning or request for negotiation.

"The production company vehemently disagrees with the tactics the union has employed," Kopenhefer said. "We think they are reprehensible and un-American."

One crew member, who requested anonymity, said many of the workers picketing outside Santa Ventura Studios on Ventura Avenue want to join the union and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with the production company. He said he has been working 12- to 14-hour days and has not been receiving overtime pay.

"Everybody's getting paid nonunion scale, even if you're in a union," the crew member said. "We're overworked and understaffed and underpaid. We're trying to unionize the whole show."

Kopenhefer said the company has already hired several permanent strike replacements.

"It's enough to continue production," he said.

Workers vowed to continue the strike indefinitely.

"The crew is showing a tremendous amount of resolve in hopes of reaching an agreement with the producers," said Dale Paule, a union representative.

But Kopenhefer said that some of the strikers had returned to their jobs before the end of the day, although other striking workers disputed that.

Paule referred other questions to the union's regional office in Los Angeles County, which did not return repeated phone calls.

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