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SAG's board makes peace with rival union

Hollywood's two actors unions have officially ended their two-year feud.

The Screen Actors Guild board of directors voted Saturday by a ratio of 78% to 22% to revive a joint bargaining agreement with its smaller rival, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

The move, which was widely anticipated and follows a similar vote by AFTRA's board last month, clears the way for the two unions to join forces when negotiations begin this fall on a new prime-time TV and theatrical contract that expires in June 2011.

The long-standing bargaining partnership ended two years ago after the unions sparred over negotiating strategy and jurisdiction. The dispute severely weakened SAG's clout with the studios and cleared the way for AFTRA to gain a significant toehold in an area that SAG has traditionally dominated: prime-time television. Virtually all prime-time TV pilots this year are being done under AFTRA's contract.

Although the two unions share about 40,000 members, AFTRA has a more diverse membership, representing not only actors but also recording artists, disc jockeys and newscasters, among others.

-- Richard Verrier

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"If we do not all hang together, we will most assuredly hang separately."

Benjamin Franklin

SAG has become a toothless joke in the last few years, being more pro-producer than pro-actor. As internet replays of programs become more and more prevalent, actors who rely on residuals to make their living are being paid virtually nothing while the shows that they have performed in are repeated dozens of times online. This arrangement encourages producers and studios to promote and nurture online re-runs while doing the opposite for conventional television replays. Ultimately, SAG has been allowing the producers to erode the lifeblood of its own membership by all but eliminating any residual payments at all. At the same time, it has made it easier for cable outlets to do cheap productions using non-SAG talent, thereby further weakening any bargaining power the union might have. Worst of all, SAG has refused to do anything about the movement of production to Canada, which has created a tremendous hardship for the core of its membership which resides in Southern California. In short, SAG has abandoned the very people who gave the union a reason for being.

Here's the math: 13 seats on the "Phase 1 negotiating committee" to AFTRA, 13 seats to SAG. 8 of those 13 SAG seats are people who understand the current government of SAG is selling it down the river - so-called "hardliners."

But they will be out-voted. Every time. Why hasn't there been a raise in the 26 year old VHS/DVD residual rate for actors? See above. Why hasn't AFTRA been stopped from undercutting SAG contracts in cable, offering "free windows" to producers, depriving actors of residuals, and all-around horrible deals, as opposed to strong SAG deals? See above.

When it was proposed a couple years ago, when the jurisdiction of movies and TV was 95% SAG, 5% AFTRA, that the "proportional representation" might be a wee bit off, and perhaps THAT was the reason there had been essentially no progress on these and a whole host of other issues effecting actors, AFTRA and "moderate" SAG (currently in control of the SAG boardroom) went frothing-at-the-mouth wild.

85 pilots to AFTRA this year. A total failure of the current administration of SAG (except for Anne-Marie Johnson, the sole top officer hold-over from the Membership FIRST group) to counter this wholesale loss of the SAG actor's bread and bitter work - TV. Not a PEEP out of the Ken Howard, Amy Aquino, David White led SAG boardroom. Not only no outrage they weren't rewarded for doing the producers bidding and ousting the previous administration, which thought it might be a good idea to get a fair contract in 2008, especially one that protected SAG members in new media - literally not a WORD of concern or outrage about the loss of ALL pilots of THEIR WATCH..

Why? Because the current SAG administration WANTS the pilots to go to AFTRA, because they are colluding with the AMPTP to make the selling of merger easier ("why give half your P&H to SAG - movies - and half your P&H to AFTRA - TV?").

Only problem is, merger is a long, long way off: llloooonnng studies, all kinds of actuarial analysis, and if any of the P&H trustees think it's a bad idea - it's dead. Again. SAG has been fighting off the unrequited AFTRA zombie since Jimmy Cagney was president of the Guild.

Time to vote as many of these union-busitng moderates out, as soon as possible, get a majority back, then IMMEDIATELY put out a referendum: which union would actors prefer to be represented by: SAG or AFTRA.

Estimates are that poll would come back in the high 80th to 90th percentile for SAG.

So, why isn't Ken Howard, President of SAG, asking US what WE want?

It's a shame Link went off on an ignorant tangent before realizing that a) Ken Howard and Co just took over, b) WE ARE IN A RECESSION-people are homeless, starving, have no health care and don't give a damn that you want money for new media, and c) didn't the recent strike that made things worse teach you that alienating everyone by accusing them of "union-busting" instead of making sure people have JOBS gets no one anywhere? Try being grateful that there are pilots being made with jobs for everyone instead of greedily reaching out for more!


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