SAG and AMPTP deadlocked with strike in sight

by Paul William Tenny

The current SAG contract with the AMPTP expires on June 30th, just a few days from now. The two narratives I see being pushed are that the always-reasonable AMPTP can't and won't bargain upwards from the deals given to the directors and writers. Pattern bargaining -- a questionable system that benefits only one party out of four and only works when all parties involved allow it to work -- has locked them in as far as they are concerned.

It's not their fault you see, they have no choice.

The other side, that being the Screen Actors Guild, says the AMPTP is still acting like an out-of-control child that hasn't even offered them what was given to AFTRA, and is making SAG actively fight upwards just to get that much, and then be grateful for it. Given the terrible reputation for stalling, scheming, lying, and all around adolescent behavior that the AMPTP worked hard to secure during multiple walkouts against the WGA, only one of these stories can be the real one and it's not all that hard to figure out which one it is.
Of those that have looked at the AFTRA pact that don't have something to gain or lose from saying so, there seems to be a consensus that the agreement is little more than junk and leftover scraps fed to a union that favors capitulation and non-confrontation over concrete and hard-fought gains. In other words, AFTRA is challenging the DGA for the reptuation of worst union in Hollywood, the kind bestowed on unions that prize being liked by powerful corporate executives above all else.

Framed that way, the only question is will SAG settle for junk, or will they strike for something the AMPTP swears they'll never give.

Well, the AMPTP said the same thing about Internet jurisdiction and streaming residuals, and the writers got them both eventually -- and secured them with a strike no less -- even if they weren't ideal terms.

Even if they were really shitty terms.

But what you're left with is are a bunch of executives who were proven wrong, beaten by a union that struck to get what it wanted, needing desperately to throw its weight around to keep other child-like unions from growing a pair and deciding that maybe confrontation is worth it after all. Sadly, some A-list acting talent are throwing their weight around too, but in all the wrong ways. Tom Hanks is is urging AFTRA members to ratify a bad contract. Perhaps the anti-AFTRA campaign was a bad idea from the outset, but not because it was undeserved or an inappropriate thing to do to a so-called sister union, even one that shares a big chunk of membership with your own.

It was a bad idea because there was nothing to gain from it. Like the DGA, AFTRA was determined to sign any piece of paper the AMPTP placed in front of it, no matter how bad it was. They wanted to surrender, and the AMPTP happily obliged by handing them terms of surrender. So really all of that was a foregone conclusion that wasn't going to be changed by a SAG campaign, all it did was serve as a distraction.

What maters most is what SAG does with the AMPTP, and if a strike is called, any decsion will be in the hands of the board just as was the case with the WGA. Big names and pretty faces signing letters and making statements aren't going to mean a damn thing. And yet just as the writers proved, even in the hands of militants, that doesn't even guarantee a well orchestrated fight or even appreciable victory.

No matter how many pro-AFTRA (which really means pro-AMPTP) articles you read from Variety and the other AMPTP-owned trades, never foget that the board runs the show once the strike is called, not A-list'ers, not former members, AFTRA dogs, or anybody else.


There is some talk that a SAG strike could "ruin" Comic-Con next month as a strike would prevent actors from participating in any media events, which pretty much means bailing from the entire convention. It'd certainly burst the balloon, but I don't know that it'd really ruin the show. There are plenty of writers for these shows (and increasingly films) that would happily fill the void left by the pretty people, who don't often get a chance to be seen publicly even though they create these entertainment properties in the first place.

That may make for a bust for the 100,000+ fans that show up, but it won't really mean much where it counts.

No, what should really worry the studios and networks is the impact a strike will have on the fall television season. It'll be wiped out even worse than than last years strike-shortened season, because at least that one dragged out into January and February. This one might not even get off the ground. All production will cease immediately, it won't be like last year where scripts were being written that could be shot months after the strike began. It's why SAG is considered so much more powerful than the WGA.

I don't know what will happen and I don't think that anybody else does either, unlike last year when a strike was guaranteed months before the deadline thanks to what amounted to a studio lockout. But you know what, with six days left, I just don't see it happening. I see the contract expiring, talks continuing past the deadline as happened with the WGA, and the AMPTP storming away from the table in faux-anger, again, just like last year.

That will continue happening until the AMPTP is forced to abandon it's old ways and start treating talent as partners instead of employees to be pushed around.
in Feature, Labor


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