A SAG state of things

by Paul William Tenny

Screen Actors Guild logoAfter surviving seven days of head-cold hell the likes of which I haven't experienced for years, I was blessed with a 24-hour stomach virus that makes you puke roughly once every hour for 6-7 straight hours (amongst many other charming things coming out of various orifices that shall not be mentioned), so now I finally feel well enough to start fighting with my cell provider over a double-charge and get on this site and give you poor bastards and earful of depressing news like the fighting between the New York and west coast SAG boards over the strike auth vote set for January 2nd.
Before I get very far into the news, I'd like to interject some of my own useless, biased, and mostly irrelevant opinion here. Have you ever asked yourself why it is that the most vocal opponents of a strike (not counting management) are the wealthiest people in the union? We already know that strikes gain nothing for the most successful union talent since they haven't had a scale deal in years, so it goes without saying that they are going to come out against any and every strike when it doesn't benefit them personally, so I just don't understand why we have to act like it's such a big deal every time this happens.

David Duchovny, Jimmy Smits, and Colin Farrell could afford to quit acting for good and not change their quality of living at all. All three are long past the point where they have to act for money, past the point where they need a union to protect them from lowballing and to give them health care and pension funds -- they don't need any of that.

And while I certainly acknowledge and appreciate what Duchovny is saying about keeping other people working, as tough as it is to say, it can't matter right now how it's going to affect other people. The only power that a union really has is the power to strike, and if they give that up for any reason, they might as well just call it quits forever and disband. To protect the jobs of others is noble, but the entire point of a union is to protect the jobs of the membership, no other people. And while every situation is different and unions aren't impeachable in all of their actions, in this case the strike is clearly being forced by the other side. The coming hardship for the below-the-line workers are not SAG's fault, folks, it's the AMPTP.

There are of course just as many people who support the strike authorization vote and a strike itself. SAG held a meeting to rally support a week ago, the key theme mirroring one from the Writers Guild Strike earlier this year:

"I was very gratified by the support from members," said SAG president Alan Rosenberg after the three-hour meeting at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood. "This isn't about me and what I earn now -- it's about actors who are coming up and their ability to make a living 20 years from now."

This is pretty much what Patric Verrone was saying back in January. The issue of new media that isn't bringing in big numbers today -- even though Hulu.com appears to be running a profit -- is going to be a large chunk of revenue in the future, perhaps even a primary source for all anyone knows. With the AMPTP's history of writing contracts in cement, if SAG doesn't get what they need today, they probably never will. [The WGA has been trying to renegotiate the formula for home-video residuals that has been on the books for over 20 years, and still can't get the AMPTP to budge.]

This doesn't even address the recent legal action the WGA initiated against the AMPTP over the few new media contract provisions that they did get from the strike, accusing the studios of not even living up to those promises so far.

This letter sent by the AMPTP's chief failure negoiator to some members of Congress, to wrap things up, is somewhat amusing given that it's really nothing but a press release. The AMPTP isn't asking for anything (and won't get anything even if they did), it's really just a pathetic instance of corporate whining on the behalf of millionaire CEOs that are more virulent anti-union than the Republicans in Congress are -- and given recent news, that's saying a lot.

People like this would hold their breath until they suffocate themselves if breathing would somehow benefit a union, to put things mildly.

As for the regional split between the L.A. and New York boards, I'm not sure that it's anything other than cold feet. The NY board supported the strike auth vote on the condition that federal mediation would fail, but now that it has failed, they still won't pull the trigger without getting an entirely new negotiating committee in there and trying to drag the AMPTP back to a table where they've steadfastly refused to accept any gains on the part of SAG at all. I don't think it's unreasonable to say that NY is just dragging their feet or incapable of understanding that the AMPTP won't give anyone much of anything without a strike, not with their current leadership, and not without the CEOs themselves getting personally involved which they did with the WGA, but only after a three month strike forced them to do so.

The strike authorization vote is set for January 2nd.
in Film, Labor, Television


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