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Lucasfilm Battles With Sound Editors, Mixers Over Contract

The company files an unfair-labor-practices complaint seeking to make the union take part in negotiations.

October 07, 2005|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

Forget about what's happening in a galaxy far, far away.

Closer to home in Marin County, George Lucas and his film company are immersed in a labor battle with the union that represents about 100 sound editors and mixers who work at the company's Skywalker Ranch.

Lucasfilm Ltd., the producer of the "Star Wars" films, has filed an unfair-labor-practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Local 16 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

Lucasfilm alleged that Local 16's representatives stalled talks to negotiate a new contract by canceling meetings, refusing to meet at reasonable times and failing to respond to requests for information. The company is seeking to force the union into contract talks.

"We have spent four very frustrating months and have been unable to get the union to the bargaining table to negotiate," Howard Roffman, vice president of business affairs for Lucasfilm, said Thursday. "We've got a business to run here."

F.X. Crowley, the local's business manager, denied that his union delayed negotiations, saying he canceled only one meeting because of a scheduling conflict.

"I was stunned," Crowley said of the complaint. "I'm ready and willing to meet."

Lucasfilm, based in Nicasio, north of San Francisco, employs about 1,500 workers.

Crowley called the Lucasfilm complaint a retaliatory response aimed at delaying a petition by employees of the company's Skywalker Sound unit to be represented by the Motion Picture Editors Guild. The workers are seeking a national contract that would allow them to transfer their benefits more easily across the country, Crowley said.

"I believe he's getting very bad counsel," Crowley said of Lucas.

The union's two-year contact ended in May, and a four-month extension expired last week. Lucasfilm's action is unusual because such complaints are typically made by unions against employers.

Lucasfilm has generally been held in high regard by union officials as a worker-friendly company that provides good benefits and such perks as on-site day care, subsidized dining halls and gym facilities. In 2002, the AFL-CIO honored Lucas for his commitment to his workers.

"This is a guy," Roffman said, "who has taken care of his employees like very few employers on this planet."

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