Showbizreporting's Blog

June 2, 2009

A SAG Member’s Opinion about what has happened within the union (Feb. 23, 2009)

Filed under: Entertainment — showbizreporting @ 4:40 pm
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The National Board’s rejection of the last best & final offer from the AMPTP was a response to an untenable change in the term of the contract (more on that below.)   Yet – it was half of the never-say-die MF Board members who voted against the motion to reject a bad deal.  Yes, the folks who wanted to take us on strike voted against rejecting a bad deal.  I applaud the members of Membership First who resisted the movement of oppositional voting.

Last week SAG went back to the table ready to make a deal.  We made huge moves with substantial gives on our part.  But the AMPTP pushed the ball even farther away.  They seem to be attempting to capitalize on the fact that we have been taken a long way down a lousy road.  But make no mistake – John McGuire, David White, and our negotiating committee, along with our moderate majority on the board – are not going to simply roll over for what could irreparably damage SAG.  

The AMPTP wrote into their last best & final (LBFO) – a new expiration date of the contract.  This poses a huge problem, not only for SAG but also for the rest of the entertainment unions.

By insisting that SAG accept an expiration date 10-12 months later than AFTRA, WGA, and DGA, the media conglomerates are trying to permanently compromise SAG’s bargaining leverage. Putting SAG last in line for “pattern bargaining” means SAG will have no influence on the pattern; which hurts SAG most, but weakens all the entertainment unions. SAG is by far the largest and separating it from its sister unions would greatly benefit our employers. The more the creative unions can harness our collective strength, the better it is for ALL of us.  

44,000 of us are dual members of SAG and AFTRA and like it or not – we are now competing against one another.  We MUST fix that.  On the surface, the LBFO gives SAG and AFTRA a chance to bargain together before AFTRA’s contract expires on 6/30/11 – but what might seem like a compromise from the AMPTP is really a poisoned apple. According to the offer, if SAG and AFTRA fail to negotiate and ratify a joint agreement by 6/30/11, AFTRA’s contract would expire but SAG’s would still be in force for another 10-12 months. If the unions decided a strike was necessary, SAG could not participate because it would have to fulfill its contract until May of 2012. This “compromise” may seem to address the need of SAG and AFTRA to bargain jointly, but in reality it leaves the AMPTP holding all the cards. They can offer an inferior deal and if SAG and AFTRA do not accept it, the whole thing blows apart – leaving both unions de-leveraged, and SAG stranded far behind its sister unions.

So what happens next? In the immediate, SAG must focus on the commercial negotiations which started today in New York. (Thankfully, it’s a joint negotiation with gracious AFTRA).

Knowing that McGuire/White and the moderate majority are in the lead, I am confident they are planning quiet steps to get producers to reconsider their unacceptable overreach.  Those steps could include back-channel communications, visible support from our sister unions (which has been noticeably absent), and direct appeals from rank-and-file and high-profile members.

Some of you have asked why not let members vote on the LBFO.  Simply put – the SAG board has never sent out a contract that the it can not recommend, much less one that it has rejected.  That is a precedent we want to protect.
Make no mistake – I take a back seat to no one in wanting these negotiations to be over.  But it would be imprudent to insist that the new leadership fix it in one fell swoop after the horrible mess they were left with.  I am willing to give them some time and support to work it out.

Despite my desire have this done yesterday, I’m still willing to give this some breathing room to see what can develop – especially in light of the important work that must be done right away on the commercials contract.  


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