SAG sets Jan. 2 as date for strike vote
It's official: Strike referendum ballots will be mailed out Jan. 2 with the results tabulated on Jan. 23, the Screen Actors Guild said this morning.
Guild insiders said the union had originally planned to send out ballots immediately after Christmas. But the timing of the mailing came under heavy fire from union critics who believed SAG wanted to minimize the turnout of working actors, who are the most likely to oppose the strike authorization.
Addressing the timing issue in a statement, SAG President Alan Rosenberg said: "We want SAG members to have time to focus on this critical referendum, so we have decided to mail ballots the day after New Year's ... A yes vote sends a strong message that we are serious about fending off rollbacks and getting what is fair for actors."
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of the studios, was swift to dismiss the announcement. "SAG members are going to be asked to bail out a failed negotiating strategy by going on strike during one of the worst economic crises in history. We hope that working actors will study our contract offer carefully and come to the conclusion that no strike can solve the problems that have been created by SAG's own failed negotiation strategy."
SAG wants additional time to conduct an aggressive education campaign to garner support for its goal of seeking a better contract than what the studios have offered, a tall order given the deep recession and divisions in the union.
The campaign kicked into high gear on Monday when nearly 500 SAG members attended a rousing town hall meeting in Hollywood, where supporters cheered guild leaders and booed a few dissidents who questioned the wisdom of holding a strike referendum during a severe economic downturn.
A positive strike vote requires 75% approval from those who vote and gives the union's board authority to call a strike if all efforts at reaching a contract with the studios fail. Ballots will be tabulated at Integrity Voting Systems in Everett, Wash. The national board, which meets on Jan. 24, will have final say on whether to stage a walkout.
-- Richard Verrier