Tag Archives: SAG

West Coast SAG members hear leaders’ pitch

After a week of feverish internal conflict, the Screen Actors Guild held its most recent town hall meeting for members Wednesday night at the Hollywood Renaissance hotel. Approximately 570 West Coast members filed in to hear guild leaders Alan Rosenberg and Doug Allen reiterate their pitch for passing a strike authorization.

A similar meeting on Monday night in New York, the locus of the more moderate faction of the guild and about 25% of the membership, followed 36 hours of escalating rhetoric. The gathering devolved into a combative argument over the merits and timing of the vote as well as several calls for the negotiating committee to be replaced and its leaders to resign.

The Hollywood wing of the guild, which reps about 60% of the membership, has generally been much more supportive of guild president Rosenberg and chief negotiator Allen and the authorization vote. Hundreds turned out for an educational town hall meeting held in L.A. last week.

Meanwhile, the guild’s most visible members have turned the spotlight on themselves the last few days with several pointed public statements attempting to persuade voters of the merits of either a yes or a no vote.

On Sunday, a few dozen high-profile actors, including Martin Sheen, Mel Gibson and Ed Harris, signed on to the leadership’s pro-authorization “solidarity” campaign. The following morning, 140-plus actors, including A-listers George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, delivered a petition to guild officers requesting that the authorization vote be rescinded. Since then, both sides have racked up hundreds of signatures in support of their positions.

Last night’s gathering included the Powerpoint presentation about contract issues that Rosenberg and Allen rolled out at the previous confabs, followed by questions from those in attendance. According to one person who was at the Renaissance, many members asked for clarifications on specific details of the current offer and expressed discomfort with the timing of a potential strike given the worsening economy.

On the whole, attendees tilted toward support for the vote and the leadership. But the tone, even among those in opposition to the vote, appeared more civil than that in New York two nights before. Rob Schneider and former guild president Ed Asner, however, did take time at the mike to lambast those high-profile actors who publicly petitioned the leadership on Monday to back away from the authorization vote.

As for the chances that the vote would actually be rescinded: “Little to none,” said Anne-Marie Johnson, first vp and chair of SAG’s Hollywood division, who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter after the meeting.

Strike authorization ballots are scheduled to go out to the 110,000 or so dues-paid members on Jan. 2. The deadline for voting is Jan. 23, when the ballots will be tallied. A 75% or greater “yes” response is required to authorize the guild’s national board to call a strike, should they deem it necessary.

The embattled SAG leaders hope to pass the authorization to put added pressure on the companies represented by the AMPTP to give additional ground in the contract negotiations that have essentially been stalled since July. Despite the intervention of a federal mediator in November, a resolution could not be reached and the AMPTP has maintained that it will not change its final offer as of June 30, the day the existing contract expired.

Rosenberg has insisted that despite the input of the high-profile members, he ultimately needs to hear the voices of the rank and file in the form of the strike authorization vote in January. Many resistant to a yes vote cite the miserable economy and the implication that a vote for authorization is essentially a vote for an actual strike, which could be called in time to torpedo the Oscars and which would wreak havoc with industry workers’ lives.

Given the increasingly public internal debate, passing of the authorization is now deeply in question. Should the authorization vote fail, SAG’s leaders would have few options left other than accepting the offer currently on the table, which the leadership has all but admitted.

According to Johnson, the guild will likely start the new year with further educational meetings and video town halls for regional branches of the guild as the ballots remain in play.

“There were no hidden agendas, which I really appreciated,” said Johnson of Wednesday’s meeting. “New York was all about hidden agendas. Hollywood, it was, ‘C’mon, I have a question, please give me an answer.’ No personality assassinations. No insults. They stuck to the issues. And that’s what it’s all about. Who cares if you don’t like me?”

Source: Hollywood Reporter

AFTRA accepts deal

Despite the Screen Actors Guild’s avid campaign, members of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have ratified the union’s primetime deal by 62.4% — a tally strong enough to send a rebuke to SAG, but not so strong that Hollywood’s immediate future is clear-cut.

The three-year agreement received support well below the usual level in such tallies, following a month of unprecedented battling between the thesp unions.

“SAG ran a well-funded and ferocious disinformation campaign that created a lot of confusion,” said AFTRA president Roberta Reardon said at a news conference Tuesday evening after the results were announced. “We are the ones who won the moral victory.”

The ratification was not a surprise, due to the faltering economy and the lingering impact of the 100-day WGA strike. Terms in the AFTRA pact mirror those in the contracts signed by the WGA and DGA, along with the majors’ final offer to SAG.

The Screen Actors Guild was hoping for a defeat of the AFTRA pact, which would have given the guild more leverage as it resumes talks Thursday on its own feature-primetime deal.

The AFTRA victory signals that there’s not enough support among SAG’s 120,000 members to vote for a strike authorization, which would require 75% approval. Still to be decided is whether the 37.6% support for SAG in the AFTRA vote shows that the guild has enough clout to persuade the Alliance of Motion Picture & TV Producers to include a sweetener or two to close the deal with SAG.

SAG and the producers meet again on Thursday and that meeting will provide the key clue of how long talks can be expected to last. TV and film productions want to know as soon as possible how quickly they can resume a normal work schedule.

The AMPTP issued a statement Tuesday telling SAG it should take AFTRA’s deal. “We appreciate today’s vote of confidence by actors in the agreement we reached with AFTRA, and hope that it demonstrates to SAG’s Hollywood leadership that there is support for the new economic relationships we have built with writers, directors and actors — and not much support for a strike, whether de facto or real,” it said.

Ballots went out to all 70,000 AFTRA members. AFTRA did not disclose how many thesps voted.

SAG’s effort was enough to lower the approval rate below the usual 90% given to guild contract votes. But producers and AFTRA expected a result around the 60%-70% level.

Screen Actors Guild had lobbied hard for defeat of this pact and, in a statement Tuesday evening, complained about AFTRA but significantly stopped short of declaring this a triumph for their side.

However, SAG president Alan Rosenberg attempted to portray the 37.6% “no” vote as a moral victory after SAG spent a month urging its 44,000 members who also belong to AFTRA to turn down the deal so that SAG could negotiate better terms. “We will continue to address the issues of importance to actors that AFTRA left on the table and we remain committed to achieving a fair contract for SAG actors,” he added.

Rosenberg said AFTRA had taken advantage of non-actors, such as news people, sportscasters and DJs. “In its materials, AFTRA focused that appeal on the importance of actor members’ increased contributions to help fund its broadcast members’ pension and health benefits,” he added.

Reardon blasted Rosenberg’s contention, asserting that 74% of AFTRA members are actors and more than 90% are entertainers such as singers, dancers, comedians and musicians.

“Today’s vote reflects the ability of AFTRA members to recognize a solid contract when they see it,” Reardon said. “Despite an unprecedented disinformation campaign aimed at interfering with our ratification process, a majority of members ultimately focused on what mattered — the obvious merits of a labor agreement that contains substantial gains for every category of performer in both traditional and new media.”

The flap created a battle between the two actors unions, with many high-profile members choosing sides. Alec Baldwin, Sally Field, Tom Hanks and Susan Sarandon backed the AFTRA deal while Viggo Mortensen, Jack Nicholson, Nick Nolte and Martin Sheen endorsed SAG’s anti-AFTRA stance.

Reardon belittled SAG for using member dues to attack another union and said that the Membership First faction that controls SAG’s national board should be replaced at upcoming elections.

AFTRA ditched its joint bargaining partnership with SAG in March following a heated jurisdictional dispute over “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

“Clearly, this was not a typical ratification process, and it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise,” Reardon said. “To those of us for whom labor solidarity is more than just a slogan, the idea that politically-motivated leaders of one union would use their members’ dues to attack another union is unconscionable. Working people do not benefit when their union is under attack.”

The results of the AFTRA vote came nine days after the AMPTP broke off negotiations by delivering the final offer on June 30, a few hours before SAG’s feature-primetime contract expired. Actors have been working since on some TV programs under terms of the expired deal; SAG’s also granted waivers to more than 355 indie features.

SAG had contended that actors deserve sweeter terms in areas such as new media, DVD residuals and salary minimums. AFTRA argued that approval will put the industry back to work and that the deal includes gains in salaries and new media without rollbacks or concessions.

Reardon said she’d be surprised if the SAG deal wasn’t resolved by September but refused to comment further, noting that she hasn’t been in the room with SAG and the AMPTP. “I have a hard enough time reading the tea leaves in AFTRA,” she added.

SAG now faces the unsavory prospect of AFTRA signing up new shows shot on digital — an area of shared jurisdiction — with the new contract.

Reardon also indicated AFTRA is planning another run at a merger with SAG, though details haven’t been hammered out, by seeking to organize a summit meeting in coming weeks. “For the sake of our members, organized labor must be united, especially in a world of ever-increasing corporate consolidation,” she said.

Rosenberg has indicated he doesn’t necessarily oppose a merger, but the notion hasn’t been particularly popular in recent years among the Membership First faction in Hollywood — mostly due to suspicions that the terms would favor AFTRA.

A 2003 merger vote received support from three-quarters of AFTRA members but voting among SAG members fell 2% short of the required 60%. Pro-merger forces, led by then-SAG president Melissa Gilbert and topper Robert Pisano, were at the forefront of that campaign and asserted that combining SAG and AFTRA would lead to greater bargaining clout and operating efficiencies, along with resolving jurisdictional disputes.

The merger backers received extensive help from the AFL-CIO, which strongly favors combining unions that have similar jurisdictions. But opponents were able to persuade voters that SAG would be a shell under the new structure; that the org would be less responsive to the unique needs of actors; and that plans to subsequently merge the SAG and AFTRA health plans would be damaging to SAG participants.

Reardon also plans to offer SAG an olive branch by reviewing the possibility of renewing joint bargaining for the upcoming commercials contract, which expires in October. AFTRA leaders angrily ditched the Phase I bargaining pact with SAG in March over accusations that SAG was attempting to poach “The Bold and the Beautiful” from AFTRA.

Additionally, Reardon has worked up an ambitious proposal for all the town’s major unions — the DGA, WGA, IATSE. SAG and AFTRA — to come together together prior to the next round of negotiations to maximize their leverage. The WGA would be first up with a deal that expires in May 2011.

SAG placed a full-page ad in the Ketchum-based Idaho Mountain Express today from the guild’s national negotiating committee to the entertainment industry leaders attending the Allen & Co. Sun Valley Media Conference.

“This media conference is the place where significant deals get made,” Rosenberg said. “We wanted to remind the entertainment media leaders in attendance that there is another important deal to be made. Actors are the creative heart of the entertainment business, and our Screen Actors Guild members want to partner with our industry to invest in and share the rewards of our mutual digital future. Let’s keep talking and let’s make a fair deal.”

Movie stars clash in Hollywood union brawl

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Movie stars accustomed to polite rivalry for coveted film roles and Oscar glory are taking sides in an increasingly bitter labor dispute between Hollywood’s two actors unions.

The larger and more militant Screen Actors Guild this week enlisted such high-profile members as Jack Nicholson, Ben Stiller and Nick Nolte in its campaign to scuttle a contract negotiated by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Other A-list performers, including Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin and Sally Field, who won an Oscar for her role as a sweatshop union organizer in “Norma Rae,” sided last week with AFTRA in publicly urging that union’s 70,000 members to ratify the labor pact.

The dispute is ratcheting up tensions in Hollywood over the possibility of actors walking off the job this summer, just as the film and TV industry is still recovering from a 14-week writers strike that ended in February.

SAG leaders say AFTRA’s tentative labor deal, covering work on prime-time television, is fatally flawed and undercuts SAG’s position in its own contract talks with the studios on a broader TV and motion pictures contract.

Both contracts expire on June 30, though SAG leaders say they are prepared to negotiate past that deadline if necessary to get a deal.

Meanwhile, they are going all out to persuade some 40,000 of SAG’s 140,000 members who belong to both unions to vote “no” on the proposed AFTRA settlement, and have suggested the two unions could reunite afterward to bargain jointly.


The two had bargained together for nearly three decades, but AFTRA decided to go its own way earlier this year after long-simmering tensions with SAG reached a boiling point.

AFTRA leaders maintain they have negotiated the best deal possible, one they say improves on contracts obtained earlier this year by Hollywood directors and striking screenwriters, and they vow not to go back to the bargaining table with SAG under any circumstances.

The studios, and some union members, have accused SAG leaders of dragging their feet in talks while campaigning to defeat the AFTRA deal, which requires a simple majority of ballots returned by July 8 to win ratification.

An AFTRA spokeswoman said union leaders are “very confident about the merits of the deal.”

But they have cast the consequences of a defeat in the most dire terms, saying rejection would likely lead to a strike as SAG seeks to press demands that are otherwise beyond reach.

SAG has argued just the opposite.

“The SAG national negotiating committee knows that a ‘no’ vote makes a strike less likely because it shows that all actors want a better deal,” SAG said in a full-page ad printed on Wednesday in the industry’s two leading trade publications, Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

SAG plans to run similar ads on Thursday, along with the names of 67 members urging a “no vote.”

The vote-no campaign also has included recorded telephone messages to dual union members from Ed Asner and Sandra Oh, a mass mailing and video messages posted on SAG’s Web site from Martin Sheen, Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen.

AFTRA, in turn, has collected more than 600 signatures on a petition urging ratification of the deal.

Source: Reuters

SAG backs off on DVDs

SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers will return once again to the bargaining table Monday for what will likely be two days of intense negotiations on the actors’ contract, which expires June 30.

Although SAG has scaled back some of its demands, including its initial proposal to increase DVD/home video residuals, both sides still remain apart on several issues, including new media.

Friday was to have brought about a temporary halt to the talks, which began April 15, between the union and the producers, with SAG’s sister union AFTRA waiting in the wings to start its formal talks on the primetime/TV contract Monday.

But Friday, SAG and the AMPTP announced that they had agreed to continue their formal talks through Tuesday. AFTRA has agreed to start up its talks on Wednesday.

While some have tied the extension to SAG’s decision to scale back demands on DVD residuals, sources say that was not the core reason to continue talks and that both sides just wanted to “keep the talks alive.”

Still, the extension offers a glimmer of hope for the negotiations, which seemed to have taken a turn for the worse on Wednesday when the AMPTP sent its members a six-page missive indicating there was little both sides have agreed upon.

The studios have so far held the line with other unions in terms of not changing the 22-year-old DVD/home video model. SAG’s national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg have been outspoken about their desire to make gains on the DVD formula. Both have been adamant that they won’t follow in the steps of the WGA and DGA, which took the issue off the bargaining table in order to move forward in the talks.

The AMPTP has rejected SAG’s demand to double the DVD residuals, which it estimated would cost producers $500 million. The producers also took issue with proposed wage hikes they claim could increase as much as 200%.

SAG is now seeking a 15% increase in DVD pay, an indication that Allen and Rosenberg are not giving up just yet. Given the studios past position on increasing the model, however, it’s unlikely the AMPTP will budge now, one source close to the negotiations said.

SAG also scaled back its demands for increases in extra and guest star pay.

“That’s still on the table,” one source said. “There’s still not a whole lot that’s off the table.”

SAG and the AMPTP also are hashing out dozens of changes by the actors union to the new-media formulas already approved by the WGA and AFTRA’s Network Code.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Actors, producers to continue talks

SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers have agreed to continue their formal talks on the actors contract through Tuesday.

In a joint statement, the union and producers said they “have agreed to extend their negotiations on a day-to-day basis, excluding Sunday, through Tuesday, May 6, at 5 p.m. We have no further comment.”

The announcement came as the entertainment industry held its breath Friday to see what, if anything, would come out of what had been the last day scheduled for talks between the two organizations.

Both sides have held formal talks since April 15 on SAG’s contract, which expires June 30. Initially, SAG and the AMPTP had penciled in just two weeks to talk, with AFTRA set to begin its negotiations this past Monday.

But at the urging of the AMPTP, AFTRA leaders agreed to put off their talks by one week, rescheduling their start date to this coming Monday. AFTRA did not immediately comment on the extension.

As of late Friday morning, AFTRA was set to begin negotiations Monday and indicated so in a regular email newsletter to its members indicating talks were starting on the contract, which covers dramas and sitcoms on primetime TV, including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox and cable, including HBO and Showtime.

The extension gives a little glimmer of hope on the negotiations, which seemed to take a turn for the worse on Wednesday when the AMPTP sent its members a six-page missive indicating there was little both sides have agreed upon, especially in the DVD/home video residuals front.
The AMPTP indicated that SAG initially in the talks rejected the new media platform that the DGA, WGA and AFTRA in its Network Code had already signed.

Then last week, SAG said it would accept the new media framework, though it sought some 70 changes to it, on the condition that the AMPTP accept the union’s proposals in traditional media.
The AMPTP rejected the offer, saying it included “doubling the existing DVD formula and huge increase in compensation and benefits” which “would result in enormous cost increases that we are not willing to accept.”

SAG responded stating, “The AMPTP knows we did not state that they had to agree to all of our non-new media proposals.”

SAG’s national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg have been outspoken about their desire to change the 22-year-old DVD/home video residual formula and have stated they won’t follow the path the other unions have taken in taking the issue off the bargaining table in order to move forward in the talks.

With the talks appearing to break down, many in the industry turned their sites to AFTRA, who is likely to hammer out a deal with the AMPTP in less than two weeks.

The union has already successfully negotiated its Network Code, covering daytime TV and reality programs, with the companies, which AFTRA members ratified with a 93% vote this week.

SAG may have been pressured to continue with the talks, considering AFTRA’s date with the AMPTP. It’s expected that if AFTRA negotiates a deal first, it would open the door to the possibility of the performers union taking over many SAG represented shows. The two performers unions share 44,000 members.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

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