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Conflict between CSU and IA begins

Photo caption: The long era of jurisdictional disputes ended once and for all in 1948, with the defeat and disintegration of the CSU.

Source: National Archives

The stage was set for warfare between the Alliance and the Conference of Studio Unions (CSU), led by Herbert Sorrell of the Painters Union.

Sorrell has been portrayed as both a saint and a villain, depending on which side of the conflict one stood.  He was clearly a ruthless enemy of the IA.  Many years later, Sorrell made a telling statement about the era of studio wars.  “You can’t always pick your friends,” he said.  He was referring to charges that he and the CSU were influenced by the American Communist Party.  Sorrell couldn’t successfully deny his Communist affiliation, although he later tried to discount any connection between him, the CSU and the Communists.

The CSU had successfully supported the cartoonists at Disney studios.  It began organizing drives to bring such diverse groups as the publicists, office employees and set decorators under its jurisdiction.  The CSU already claimed the costume designers and the scenic artists.

IA propertymen were supervised by CSU set decorators, but many IA propertymen also held decorator’s cards.  The IA claimed full jurisdiction over set decorators.  The Painters Union demanded that the industry recognize the CSU as the collective bargaining agent for set decorators under the Studio Basic Agreement.