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As the race for Oscar continues to heat up the teamsters who manufacture and deliver the physical statues are coming into conflict with R.S. Owens & Company, the producers of the Oscar and Emmy statuettes. According to The Huffington Post, contract negotiations between Owens and its workers have come to a halt and the union is now reaching out to Hollywood to back them up in their dispute. In a release on Tuesday the employees revealed that the company had frozen wages for three years beginning in 2007 and plans to renew the policy for the next three years, leaving them without the benefit of a pay increase for nearly a decade.
The union further alleges that Owens intends to cut vacation and bereavement benefits and increase health care costs. Though production continues, there is the ever present possibility of a strike, which could theoretically affect the February 26 awards show. Teamsters Local 743 plans to seek Federal mediation as a part of its negotiations strategy.
Scott Siegel, the company’s president , asserts that the union's claims that the company earned $31 million in revenue this year is inaccurate, though he has not (to our knowledge) presented an adjusted number. Siegel has chastised the union for going public and justifies the company’s salary freeze and benefits cuts thusly:
"We're the only unionized [award] manufacturer in the United States. We have seen one after another entertainment award that we manufactured being moved to China. At no point have the Teamsters, or members of other unions, put pressure on all the entertainment organizations to buy union-made awards and U.S.A.-made awards. Part of the predicament [R.S. Owens & Company is] in right now is because most of the main awards are now being made in China."
The AMPAS has not yet commented on the matter. Their, website, however, does have this to say about the statue itself: “Although it measures just 13½ inches high, the Oscar statuette stands tall as the motion picture industry’s greatest honor.” The question becomes: who (if anyone) will Tinseltown stand with?
This symbol of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is in fact the subject of a behind the scenes shoot going on this week at the production company. Donnie Von Moore, president of Teamsters Local 743, encouraged these filmmakers and others to lend their strength to the workers' cause:
"From the Screen Actors Guild to the Directors Guild of America, most celebrities who get an Oscar are in a union themselves. They know how crucial unions are to protecting livelihood. What the workers at R.S. Owens need now is union support."
Both SAG and the WGA have had some fairly public strikes over the last several years. The large majority of the entertainment industry came out in support of the unions in those cases. It will be interesting to see if the teamsters receive the same public show of solidarity from the very community that covets and/or enjoys the gleaming fruit of their labor.
For year-round entertainment news and commentary follow @JRothC on Twitter.
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