Gareth R. Hughes, who played a major role in reshaping Hollywood’s labor relations, has died. He was 74.
Hughes was VP Labor Relations at MCA/Universal in 1975 when the old Association of Motion Picture & Television Producers broke up over the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees’ demand for a massive pay raise. Inflation was running rampant – 12% a year – and IATSE members hadn’t had a pay raise since President Nixon froze wages across the country in 1972.
Universal and Paramount agreed to the union’s demand for a 52% pay hike, but the other studios refused, which led Universal’s Lew Wasserman and Paramount’s Barry Diller to pull out of the old AMPTP. They hired Billy Hunt away from that organization, and for the next seven years, he, Hughes and Richard Schonland, VP Labor Relations at Paramount, would negotiate their own deals with all of Hollywood’s unions — which the old AMPTP was then forced to accept.
That schism within management’s ranks finally ended in 1982 when the current Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was formed under the leadership of Nick Counter.
“Gareth was the most decent, honorable, fair-minded, ethical and classy guy,” said attorney Jimmy Goodman, a Disney exec who once represented him. “He had extremely excellent relationships with Mike Franklin, who ran the WGA and then the DGA, and with Chet Migden and then Ken Orsatti, who ran SAG. They knew they could trust him. His word was good.”
A 1968 graduate of USC’s film school, Hughes had applied for a production job at Universal. He was told that there weren’t any openings, but there was one in labor relations. He stayed with Universal until 1988, when he was named president and COO of the Mount Company, a multimedia entertainment company.
He is survived by his wife June, who he met at Universal, and daughter Amanda Hughes, an attorney in San Diego.