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SAG drama ending soon: Strike that

When a group of actors supported by Tom Hanks and Sally Field won key seats on the national board of the Screen Actors Guild last month, many hoped the guild might finally find a way to break the logjam in contract talks with the studios. After all, the election gave moderates a slight majority over the incumbent and more hard-line faction known as Membership First.

Rosenallen But that optimism has been tempered by some harsh political realities facing the newcomers, who will face a tough decision Saturday when the 71-member national board meets for the first time since the election. The biggest issue on the agenda: deciding whether members should vote to grant strike authorization to their leaders.

Predicting the outcome is stumping even veteran SAG watchers. And the new moderate Hollywood board members from the Unite for Strength slate have been conspicuously quiet since SAG's negotiating committee recommended that the board approve a strike vote.  Ned Vaughn, spokesman for the group, declined to comment. "Private Practice" star Amy Brenneman, the top vote-getter in the recent elections, could not be reached.

Conventional wisdom holds that moderates will reject the proposed strike authorization on the grounds that a positive vote would be extremely difficult to achieve during the current recession. If unsuccessful, it would also expose the union to a humiliating defeat.Brenneman_vaughn

But that's not a given. Some of the new Hollywood board members think opposing a strike vote would allow hard-liners to unfairly portray them as obstructionist, forcing them to the take the political heat for a problem they didn't create. That, in turn, could hurt their chances to secure further gains in future board elections and achieve their ultimate goal: merging with the smaller actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

No doubt, SAG leaders will reassure board members that voting for a strike authorization is not the same as voting to strike, that it will give them the leverage they need to close a deal and that the board will still have final say to call a walkout if all else fails.

Ctlogo Although it's unlikely, a strike authorization, which requires approval by 75% of voting members, is still a possibility despite the dire economy. The fact is, the vast majority of SAG's 120,000 members don't work regularly and have less to lose by a walkout than the working actors who comprise a small fraction of the guild.

Even if it passes, however, it's not clear what effect a strike authorization would have. Studio chiefs have flatly rejected SAG's cornerstone demand -- securing jurisdiction for all Web shows, regardless of budget -- arguing that doing so would alter a new-media framework already agreed to by writers, directors and actors who belong to AFTRA.

In other words, this drama won't end any time soon.

-- Richard Verrier

Photos: SAG President Alan Rosenberg and Executive Director Doug Allen (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times); Amy Brenneman (Michael Buckner / Getty Images); Ned Vaughn (courtesy of the actor)

Comments () | Archives (7)

Allen and Rosenberg are the worst EVAH! Vote them out and stop the insanity.

Yes on the strike !!!!! Let's show those greedy bastar*s where their bread is buttered. Don't they see that we're brilliant and gorgeous ,and that not everyone can become an actor/actress. Okay, I know that anyone can act and that many of us are talentless, but hey, we've studied withh the greats like ( insert the loser actor of your choice), and we're better than Republicans and deserve big $$$.

Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful explanation of the current strike situation, Mr. Verrier. I appreciate your point that the once enthusiastic “optimism [of strike proponents] has been tempered by some harsh political realities”. While I absolutely think that amendments to the contracts should be made and that SAG members should get what is due to them, I do agree that there is a certain amount of almost naïve optimism in striking; a walkout neglects a number of important factors which are particularly relevant at the moment. Among these are the disheveled state of the economy, and the fact that it is hard enough to find work in the industry right now, let alone to refuse it. Let’s face it: we all need the money right now, and most SAG members probably are not jumping at the chance to turn work down. Similarly, it often goes unsaid or unrecognized that the amendments in question would really only affect a small fraction of guild members. Seeing as so many members do not work on a regular, consistent basis, and certainly do not earn vast sums of money even when they do, such royalties would probably be of little consequence to them when compared to the amount of money they would lose by not working for a period of weeks or months. For the few members who are lucky enough to be earning figures in the millions, however, a strike does seem logical and could potentially result in increased profits in the future. Either way, I think the idea of putting the decision in the hands of the members themselves, rather than leaving it up to a bureaucratic board of directors, is probably the fairest and most democratic option; a decision voted on by all 120,000 members will better reflect the needs and wishes of the guild than one made by a select group of highly paid (and highly scrutinized) leaders. Furthermore, the specific topic in question puts all involved parties in an interesting predicament, as you indicate. With the digital age of “new media,” we are in a new and still uncertain territory, exploring and defining the boundaries of a new frontier as we go. Your point that studio chiefs are hesitant to approve SAG’s demands because “doing so would alter a new-media framework” is an important one, and whatever decision is reached will have a weighty and long-term impact on industry protocol. It appears as though the strike could end up shaping the way the entertainment world operates more than we may have bargained for.

Anyone can act? That's the funniest thing I've ever heard, and you'd know better if you had ever been in a single acting class.

Dear Readers.

There is never a good time to SRIKE. There is always a good time to demand fair compensation for your work. Look what happened to the people in this country, who’s
wages never increased. It is an economical disaster. 75% of actors are making less than
$ 3700 a year. Do you think they have houses and mortgages to pay from their acting jobs?
I don’t think so. On the other hand, the STUDIOS just spent on “ANGELS and DEMONS” more than $ 175 millions. Do you know how many films you can make with that money? $40 millions went to TOM HANKS. You know how many actors could be paid with that money? The whole system has to be updated as the work character and circumstances are changing as well.

Yes, SAG! Please go on strike. As mentioned above, 75% of actors make less than $3700 a year. But that same 75% makes the balance of what they need to survive by waiting tables, bartending, and whatever else they do which is NOT acting. When SAG strikes, those in the "Less than $3700 Club" will go back to waiting tables, bartending, telemarketing, etc. Those of us in IATSE who do not have any other job but the craft we pursue will not work, lose our homes, our insurance, benefits, etc. The moral of this story: Those who really want to strike are only part-time actors who can fall back on something else while all other unions, guilds, and crafts suffer from the work stoppage. How selfish is that during the holiday season? It seems that the role that SAG is playing the best is that of The Grinch!

I want to hear why SAG deserves more than anyone else. I want to hear why they think that they are better than everyone else. Us IATSE members are the reason why things function properly. We are the reason why the sets are built, painted, rigged, lighted. We are the reason why you are fed, and the reason why you get to ask for tylenol, and advil for your little head aches. We are the ones who suffer the most. At a time when people are loosing their jobs, and cant find new ones. At a time when the economy is suffering, people are suffering. This is the biggest bulls**t idea ever. The SAG president should be fired and replaced, or voted out. His move to ignore the economy, and all of the thousands of workers including actors who will suffer as a result is the biggest act of ignorence ever. Not to mention the hundreds if not thousands of workers who still cant find jobs as a result of the writters strike. Any actor who votes on this strike can go to hell.


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