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California

Mayor Puts Face on Costs of Strike

April 27, 2001|MEG JAMES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ramping up his campaign to prod Hollywood writers and studios to settle their differences to avoid a costly strike, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan focused attention Thursday on small businesses whose survival depends on the entertainment industry.

Riordan's point: Not everyone in Hollywood is made of money.

At Lucy's El Adobe Cafe on Melrose Avenue, Riordan sat alongside nine owners of businesses including an automotive garage, a dry cleaners, a coffee shop, a floral shop and a camera rental store. These owners, the mayor said, represent "the thousands upon thousands of Los Angeles businesses" that would be hurt by a strike.

Riordan expressed optimism that a strike by writers will be averted, even if that means extending the contract beyond Wednesday when the writers' current contract expires. The two sides continued their negotiations Thursday, several miles from Riordan's breakfast event.

Riordan played talk show host, interviewing some of those who work silently in the studios' shadows. To one nervous guest, Riordan motioned to a CNN camera five feet away and said, "You're talking to people in their living rooms, here."

The mayor wanted to put human faces on a $30,000 city-sponsored report that predicted a prolonged strike would drain 81,900 jobs and $6.9 billion in income from Los Angeles.

Most of the business owners were grateful that Riordan was interested in highlighting their plight.

"I've seen what a strike can do," said Rita Flora, who has a restaurant and flower shop near 6th and La Brea. "As small-business owners, we work really hard without a lot of support. And it's so easy to get crunched."

Peter Toumayan, co-owner of Studio Four Cleaners, said studio executives and writers both might be right. But the ripple effects of a strike would extend far beyond the negotiation table.

"Both parties have to sit back and analyze it and say, 'How greedy can we be?' " said Toumayan, 77. "What do I do with my employees? I have some people who have been with me for 12 years. Do I send them home?"

Riordan said he has no plans to inject himself into the negotiations. "Myself . . . George Mitchell . . . There are a lot of great people around who could do shuttle diplomacy if the sides want us to," Riordan said. "But I think for me to try to push myself in would be very counterproductive."

The two sides "accept the role that I am playing now, of getting this message out on the effect on the economy," Riordan said. "I think I should stick with that unless for some weird reason they ask me to come into it."

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