Grammy show wins support of two unions

Beyonce is just one of many Grammy-nominated artists who double as members of the Screen Actors Guild.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

After watching the Golden Globes gala implode last weekend in the face of the Writers Guild of America strike, the organizers of the 50th Annual Grammy Awards began a campaign Tuesday to preserve their Feb. 10 show.

The American Federation of Musicians, the largest union for professional musicians, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represents 70,000 entertainers, issued a joint statement supporting the producers of the Grammys and their bid for a waiver from the WGA.

“AFM and AFTRA strongly urge all of our members to support the important work of the Recording Academy by participating in the Grammy events,” the statement read.


That may not sway the WGA, which had declared it “unlikely” that it would grant a waiver to the Grammys. The guild is coming off a major disruption of the Globes, which were reduced to a celebrity-free news conference. People close to the negotiations say a decision from the WGA isn’t expected before next week.

The academy also sought Tuesday to set the Grammys apart from trophy shows that honor film and television.

Neil Portnow, president and chief executive of the academy, said the Grammys should be spared from a dispute raging between writers and the studios and networks that pay them. He also pointed to the numerous tie-in events in Los Angeles.

“Grammy Week represents the most significant worldwide music event of the year,” Portnow said in a statement. “And we are in a different industry than the motion picture and television business; I am quite certain that most are aware of the extremely difficult and challenging conditions facing our industry’s creators and companies.”

Still, to the eyes of the WGA, the Grammys are a viable target because the three-hour gala drew an average of 20 million viewers for CBS last year. The network has been promoting the Grammys for weeks and on Nov. 30 aired a two-hour franchise retrospective titled “My Night at the Grammys.”

Academy officials privately pledge that the show will go on even in the face of a picket line, which would put some music stars on the spot. A number of notable Grammy nominees have memberships in the Screen Actors Guild for working in film and television. Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Jon Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah, Barbra Streisand, 50 Cent, Gwen Stefani, Bette Midler and Common are just some of the nominees this year whom SAG would probably pressure not to attend if the Grammys were not given a waiver.


The Grammys have a larger local footprint than the Globes: The event is attended by more than 15,000 people at Staples Center and draws music talent from around the world.

The show has a major production budget and more than a dozen performances that require a small army of sound, lighting and stage workers. Portnow said that the show employed about 700 union workers, but that only two of them were WGA members.