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Politicians Snub ABC Over Strike

An ongoing labor dispute between ABC and about 2,200 behind-the-scenes employees made it a rough election night for the network and some of its affiliates.

ABC reporters were barred from election headquarters, politicians refused ABC interviews, a power cord to an ABC truck in New York was cut and the network struggled with inexperienced personnel.

The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, representing camera workers, publicists, producers, writers and editors, staged a one-day walkout Monday to demand access to information about the network's health coverage.

The network refused to let them go back to work Tuesday without a promise that ABC would be warned in advance of any future job action. ABC rejected the union's counter proposal of no union-related activity for 30 days.

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Morton Bahr, president of NABET's parent, the Communications Workers union, wrote to the Democratic and Republican national organizations, asking them not to give interviews to ABC or its local stations.

"Your support is a stand in favor of fair application of our labor laws and the rights of the American working people," Bahr wrote.

Vice President Al Gore canceled an interview, saying it was White House policy not to grant special access to news organizations involved in labor disputes. ABC correspondent Ann Compton had flown to Seattle to talk to him.

Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, head of the Democratic National Committee, backed out of an appearance on Good Morning America. Charles Schumer, the Democratic senator-elect from New York, also refused to give ABC interviews.

"It is unfortunate when elected officials allow themselves to be used as tools in a private labor negotiation at the expense of informing the American public on Election Day or any other dy," ABC spokeswoman Julie Hoover said.

Police said wires connecting ABC equipment at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where Schumer had his headquarters, were cut Tuesday. No arrests were made. A reporter for New York's ABC affiliate had to deliver reports on Schumer via cellular telephone.

In California, an ABC news crew sent to Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer's victory party was asked to leave because of the dispute but was later allowed back in. The station, KGO-TV in San Francisco, had sought a court order to allow its reporters back inside.

Roy Behr, a Boxer spokesman at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, said Democratic Lt. Gov. Gray Davis, who defeated Republican Dan Lungren for governor, also planned to exclude ABC crews from his victory party in Los Angeles. But Davis spokesman Michael Bustamante said ABC officials had gone to court to make sure they had access.

A crew from WABC-TV in New York City was barred from the headquarters of Peter Vallone, the losing Democratic candidate for governor, the station said.

On the air, ABC sought to minimize the effects of the job action. It used fewer graphics than its rivals and fewer than it had been planning. There were some glitches: theme music briefly drowned out a report from correspondent Lynn Sherr. Problems with sound levels also left commentators like George Will and George Stephanopoulous barely audible.

The union's contract with ABC expired in March 1997. Half of the striking workers are based in New York, the rest in Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco.

Written By David Bauder, AP Television Writer

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