Here we go again -- SAG asking for strike vote

by Paul William Tenny

Models look good on strike
News just hit the wires this morning (5am, Saturday? huh?) that the federal mediator failed to settle the dispute between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), just like he failed with the WGA. I can't help but wonder if this has something to do President Bush, because we all know how virulently anti-labor Republicans are, and how willing the President has been to stuff federal agencies full of unqualified political appointees that will carry out his personal ideological agenda rather than doing the job these agencies were created for.
Remember when a 20-something political appointee with no background in earth sciences was caught censoring NASA reports on climate change to water them down, because Bush doesn't personally believe in global warming? Makes you wonder if these mediators even tried to settle these disputes or if they were content to just like the companies do whatever they felt like doing.

We remain committed to avoiding a strike but now more than ever we cannot allow our employers to experiment with our careers. The WGA has already learned that the new media terms they agreed to with the AMPTP are not being honored. We cannot allow our employers to undermine the futures of our members and their families.

SAG is going to reach out to its membership to "educate" them on the state of things, which is an obvious precursor to asking them for authorization to strike. The strike itself would come later after a vote by SAG brass, pretty much anytime after a successful authorization vote.

Unlike with the WGA strike, all television shows currently in production would shut down immediately. Based on what I know of things, you could see a handful -- maybe two or three -- new episodes after the strike is called based on how many episodes are in post production, or none at all. Any feature film that is shooting would shut down immediately since you can't shoot a movie without actors, not even purely animated features since voice actors would walk out, too.

DHD has the SAG and AMPTP statements but we already know the story, the AMPTP did to SAG what they did to the WGA, they held their breath and refused to bargain in good faith until a strike forced them to fold. The writers had the fortitude to hold out for three months and got basically everything they thought they could get in the end, but the production damage they did was maybe a third to half what SAG will do, and that was during a time when the economy as actually a heck of a lot better than it is today.

NBC for example could afford to sit on its rear knowing full well that GE could afford the losses even over an extended period of time because of how large and diverse it businesses are, but that's simply not the case anymore.

Even News Corp is laying people off.

So the main hangup is that SAG wasn't happy with the WGA deal and wanted to improve on it. The AMPTP doesn't want to do that because then they'd have to turn around and give the same, better deal, to the WGA and DGA, but SAG doesn't care about that because they have to look out for their own first and foremost. That their friends at the WGA would benefit from any improvements is a bonus to them, but not their first priority. The WGA deal secured jurisdiction for "new media" which means TV shows and movies broadcast online, including shorts (webisodes) and all-original content such as that, but they didn't get everything.

Residuals (roughly equivalent to royalties) were no where close to what they are for television, and a lot of writers weren't happy about that but were hopeful that those terms can be improved upon as the online market grows over time (even though they were in the exact same situation for home video residuals which now cover DVDs, as the AMPTP has refused to revisit those numbers and considers them permenantly off the table.) There's a two week window during which entire episodes of TV shows can be broadcast online for free where writers get absolutely nothing, and SAG doesn't just want that window narrowed, they want the thing sealed shut entirely.

And this isn't even addressing what SAG brought up in their statement and will certainly stress to their membership in the coming weeks, accusations that the studios and networks aren't even living up to their existing legal obligations under the WGA's new media provisions.

If they get what they want, then writers get it too, so it's obviously in the best interest of writers to return the support they got from SAG during their own strike. The WGA owes SAG big time and hopefully that debt can be repaid in a way that will strengthen their friendship even further, because ultimately that's universally bad for the AMPTP but great for union labor.

Further updates as they become available.
in Film, Labor, Television


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Hi, Paul.

Thank you for the heads up! I saw your Twitter about this article.

American employees have been getting the shaft for many, many years. I've put in my 50 years of working, I'm retired now. And things have improved in many ways since I began working -- but still, there is tremendous room for improvement.

Best wishes to SAG, WGA and the DGA!

I am not a fan of unions in general, but I especially dislike SAG and the current leadership it's under. This strike isn't about residuals - that's what they are telling the media and any lazy bum members who will listen. The strike is about SAG wanting to poach territory from other guilds whose members don't WANT to join SAG, and SAG is trying to use the studios as a hammer. The worst part is how many hundreds of thousands of lives SAG is willing to destroy on its power trip by striking. At least the WGA was striking for actual benefits - SAG is just being greedy and wants power in places nobody wants them.
SAG has been fighting with smaller guilds like AFTRA over jurisdiction for years. They couldn't get their dual-members to vote down AFTRA, nor have them been able to gain exclusivity over members who straddle mulitple unions. The pursuit of a different deal than all other Hollywood unions indicates to me that the leaders don't want the deal for actors - they want for the purpose of gaining territory they haven't been able to get. If they offer a better "deal" than other guilds, those actors would perhaps be more likely to, say, drop AFTRA and join SAG? It's annoying in the best of economies, but in a time like this, after a strike and an economic meltdown, to play these little games strikes me as incredibly irresponsible.

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