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Unions & 'Real World'

| Thursday, March 25, 2004

Union totalitarianism nearly cost Philadelphia "The Real World." In principle, the popular MTV show should have moved on.

It would have sent a clear signal that the tail doesn't wag the dog. But in this case, sadly enough, it did.

At issue is the right of any employer to legally hire workers without being strong-armed by unions. What else would you call two weeks of pickets outside the show's location -- which would have made taping difficult if not impossible•

Bunim/Murray Productions drew the union's wrath by hiring nonunion labor to renovate the show's setting -- just as it had in 13 other major cities. Amid pickets and signs and a giant inflated rat, the production company last week said later, dudes. Much later.

But after days of negotiations, the city's unions and Bunim/Murray came to terms. There were certain practicalities: The loft for Philly shoot already was 70 percent finished. And the city stood to lose gobs of publicity from a TV show that's No. 1 in its time slot among 12- to 34-year-olds.

So everybody gets what they wanted, right• Not quite. What happens when the MTV series moves to its next city• And for Philadelphia, what message does this episode send to prospective film producers -- except that they have to play by the union rules or pay for their disregard?

Everyone loses. Except the unions.

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