Ross Lincoln contributed to this report

The contract battle between union members and the Motion Picture and Television Fund spread today from the negotiating table to the streets. As I reported last week that they would, the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West set up protest lines Thursday in front of the MPTF’s hospital in Woodland Hills and other MPTF locations in protest of the tepid state of the talks. Chanting, “What is this about? Patient care!” and “We’re healthcare workers fighting back!”, about 25 demonstrators marched on the sidewalk in front of the facility. While not a formal strike action, the protest could be an opening act for union members showing up outside Jeffrey Katzenberg’s 11th Annual “Night Before” Oscars Fundraiser for the MPTF on February 23 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. A source told me last week SEIU is “seriously considering” going on the line outside the charity event.

Said MPTF CEO Bob Beitcher in a statement for Deadline: “MPTF continues to believe that the best place to negotiate with SEIU is around a table and not on the street or in the press. We know that industry members who encounter the informational pickets today fully understand that there are at least two sides to every negotiation and will be able to see through the rhetoric and trust that MPTF deals fairly and equitably with its labor force.”

A source told Deadline the hospital has increased workloads today to make scheduling breaks more difficult and make it harder for employees to attend the demonstration.

The union and the organization are in the midst of bargaining over a new three-year contract for the approximately 500 SEIU healthcare workers who are employed by the MPTF. Talks started in August 2012. Two and a half weeks ago, members overwhelmingly voted to authorize the union to strike. The union says the sticking points are staffing ratios at the hospital as well as a doubling of healthcare premiums for its members; wages; and frozen retirement contributions. The last meeting between the union and the MPTF was February 14, with new bargaining sessions not scheduled until March 7 and March 13.

Beitcher told employees last month that staffing levels were not part of bargaining talks.