Showbizreporting's Blog

June 2, 2009

A message from Doug Allen to SAG member

Filed under: Entertainment — showbizreporting @ 12:07 am
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Dear Screen Actors Guild Member,

Your negotiators are working every day to successfully conclude negotiations for a successor agreement to our TV/Theatrical contract. We have not yet closed the gap with the employers’ negotiators, but National President Alan Rosenberg, the National Negotiating Committee co-chairs from the Regional Branch Division, New York and Hollywood and I remain focused on this effort.

Right now, that involves small group meetings and exchanges with the employers, their AMPTP representatives and a core group of leaders in both organizations. Substantive progress is more likely in a less formal atmosphere. Negotiators can talk more productively, exchange ideas and define a short path leading to a conclusion. Informal communication is routine in labor talks and, in fact, occurred in other Guilds’ negotiations this year.

The full committees and relevant staff of the AMPTP and SAG together number more than 100 people. This large group is extremely effective in framing the issues in negotiations, but unwieldy as we transition to focused, directed discussion. In fact, the full 100-member negotiating group probably will not need to meet across the table again until we shake hands over a deal.

You will not doubt read spin suggesting that there is dead silence between our sides. Progress doesn’t have to occur directly across a table. Discussions through alternative channels are ongoing as we work toward a fair deal for actors as soon as possible.

Your interest in and support of the key issues like jurisdiction and residuals for all new media have been invaluable to our negotiations, as was the 68-0 vote of our National Board in the resolution of July 26, 2008. This unanimous vote from the board members who represent you in the Regional Branch Division, New York Division and Hollywood Division was a meaningful reaffirmation of SAG’s unity. Solidarity by the SAG Board and SAG members sends an important, powerful signal to management that efforts to divide us aren’t working and that actors are united on the issues.

We also know that you remain concerned about other key bargaining priorities such as, for example, product integration, force majeure, stunt performers and background actors’ issues. Be assured that these and our other priorities continue to be in the forefront of our efforts on your behalf.

We will stay in touch with you to report on our efforts and hope that you will also stay in touch with us.

Thank you for your continued support and solidarity.

In unity,

Doug Allen
National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator

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NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) – The Screen Actors Guild will move a step closer to a strike on Wednesday .
The negotiating committee of the Hollywood performers’ guild is expected to approve a measure asking for the rank and file’s approval of a work stoppage, and the measure probably will pass, according to SAG sources with knowledge of the meeting.
A spokeswoman for the guild confirmed that the negotiating committee would meet but said she did not know the meeting’s agenda.
MembershipFirst — the dominant political party among the guild’s Hollywood-based members, which favors a hard-line stance toward producers — recently lost its majority status on the guild’s national board to a consortium of factions in Hollywood, New York and the regional branches that favor a more moderate approach. But MembershipFirst still controls nine of the 13 votes on the negotiating committee, making the measure’s passage likely. During the summer, the guild’s national executive committee gave the negotiating committee the authority to seek strike authorization.
The move toward a strike comes after guild national president Alan Rosenberg and national executive director Doug Allen sent a letter Monday to three top executives — Disney’s Robert Iger, News Corp.’s Peter Chernin and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers ( AMPTP ) president Nick Counter — asking to reopen negotiations. That offer was rebuffed by Counter, who is the chief negotiator for the major studios and production companies.
Allen issued a statement Tuesday regarding Counter’s rejection: “We are disappointed to hear that the employers and their AMPTP representatives are refusing to engage in the process necessary to complete a deal. We do not believe that their rejection of our reasonable request is in the best interests of our members or the industry. Our national negotiating committee will be meeting later this week to consider management’s response.”
FIRST STEP
Several more steps would have to happen before a work stoppage would take effect. One national board member said the fact that guild leaders would consider a strike while the national economy is foundering shows the desperate shape they are in after months of negotiations, which have yet to produce a deal.
“The only people that seem to be oblivious to the condition of the United States of America right now and the financial situation that we’re in are Doug Allen, Alan Rosenberg and MembershipFirst,” said the source. “The idea that we would be going on strike now is absurd in Fellini proportions.”
Entertainment labor attorney Scott Witlin of Akin Gump in Los Angeles agreed, pointing out that SAG’s leadership is doing this before the first board meeting with its new members.
“This is a direct result of the fact that MembershipFirst has lost power and they’re trying to act as a lame duck and pass something that the new leadership would not authorize,” said Witlin, who represents mostly producers in labor and employment contracts. “It’s just a cynical attempt by the group that was in office to set policy beyond their terms of office.”
If the measure passes, a referendum would be sent to members; 75 percent would have to approve the authorization before the national board could call for a work stoppage. A simple majority of the board would then have to approve a strike. The new board will not be officially seated until the third week of October, and it is doubtful that a referendum could be sent out to members and voted on before then.
PRODUCTION SLOWING
It also is uncertain whether three-fourths of guild members would support a strike. Not only are many still recovering from the effects of the 100-day writers’ strike, which stretched from November to February, but film production across the country — which had been booming because of generous state tax incentives — has slowed in regions outside of Hollywood because of the stalled contract talks.
Additionally, in the recent election, members voted out many board members who sit on the negotiating committee, including its chair, David Jolliffe, in favor of the challenging faction, Unite for Strength. The members of the negotiating committee, however, remained unchanged because technically they still are in negotiations on a new contract.
The AMPTP issued its final offer to the guild June 30. SAG made a counteroffer that was rejected. Since then, Rosenberg and Allen have maintained that they have had informal, back-channel discussions with studio heads, but guild sources and sources close to producers say those conversations have not taken place.
Witlin said the studios hold the cards right now.
“If they get strike authorization, almost certainly the ( AMPTP ‘s) final offer comes off the table, and when SAG comes back, asking for a deal, anything that the employer will give them will be a worse deal,” he said. “If they don’t get strike authorization, then they’ve completely squandered their bargaining power because management will know there is no strike, and they’ll force them to take a deal.”
Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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