Showbizreporting's Blog

June 26, 2009

Hits and Myths regarding Merger (SAG/AFTRA)

Filed under: Entertainment — showbizreporting @ 8:46 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Well, here we go again. Another push for a merger; most likely, Millions more will be spent to try and save AFTRA’s ass by another merger attempt.

The last AIMIA consolidation try cost members around $FIVE MILLION DOLLARS.

Most of the reasons given by those pushing for merger are distilled into one-line clichés.

Number One Myth, and reason given for the merger of SAG and AFTRA; There is strength in numbers!

RIGHT! If that was the case, rabbits would be the dominate force in the animal kingdom, instead of being a ready food supply for predators. Yes, if indeed that was the case, our SAG numbers of 120,000 should already be sufficient to take on what are, admittedly only about six studio, network and conglomerate heads that we deal with.

Numbers are only advantages if they are the right numbers. For instance in the case of a SAG/AFTRA merger, the only numbers that would be added would be about 30,000 broadcasters; D.J.’s, sportscasters, weathermen, game show host, and news people. I have yet to hear a creditable argument for adding 30,000 broadcasters to SAG’s membership.

Although, completely lacking credibility, the following argument is the one drug out most often to support merging broadcasters into the Screen Actors Guild; we have the same employers, and the more employees of a company you cover, the stronger your position is at the bargaining table.

Well, by this rather superficial rationalization, not only should we merge broadcasters into SAG but also technicians, crafts people and even janitors, etc, etc… We all work for the same employers.

Having broadcasters in our union would not make us a stronger union but rather a weaker one. First off, we don’t sit down at the bargaining table together. We bargain separately. If actors go out on strike, broadcasters will not, or more precisely cannot, go out on strike with us because of no strike clauses in their contract, and vise versa, actors cannot strike in sympathy with their cause.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s say we did negotiate together. Does anyone seriously believe that broadcasters would go out on strike so that actors would get an increase in DVD, or consent of clip use? On the other hand, I doubt that many actors would be willing to strike in order to get better Teleprompters.

Another myth is that if we only merged with AFTRA it would stop each union from undercutting the other. Well to begin with, this AFTRA fiction is based on a fallacy. Both unions are not undercutting each other or involved in raiding. Only one is union has been involved in poaching and undercutting and that is AFTRA.

A little history here: In 1998 both AFTRA and SAG agreed to a motion, 99-CVR-17R. Basically, it was an agreement by the two parties that neither would undercut the others contracts. While AFTRA abided by the agreement, for a few years, finally under the presidency of John Connolly, it violated the agreement. The violations were an integral part of Connolly’s grand scheme to make AFTRA what he called “The future in media in the 21st Century.”

This all occurred about half way through this decade. It was at this point that AFTRA’s leadership began to cut actors salaries through inferior minimums and residual giveaways in order to realize Connolly’s dream of AFTRA media greatness in the 21st Century. It was a simple plan go after any show shot on digital whether SAG already had a deal with the producers or not. By this sellout of actors AFTRA went from having only a couple of cable shows to now representing the majority of them.

For instance, SAG’s “That’s So Raven’s,” spinoff “Corey in the House” became an AFTRA show after the AFTRA’s leadership low-balled the SAG contract with their sellout of actors to Disney and “It’s a Laugh Productions.” There was definitely nothing funny about this contract which sold out actors in order to put more money in AFTRA’s coffers.

To check out photocopies of several of these AFTRA lowball contracts used to poach shows click the following link. http://sagwatchdog.com/cgi-bin/admin_config.pl/read/835

One has to “laugh” when an AFTRA First supporter repeats the AFTRA bogus mantra that SAG has tried to destroy AFTRA, when one only has to look at evidence like that above, to realize that in fact the truth is just the opposite. There is not one shred of evidence to support the “destroy AFTRA” claim. Oh, and by the way, hello, when evidence is offered to support allegations that AFTRA is poaching SAG contracts that is not an effort to destroy AFTRA–but rather an attempt to save actors. An attempt to save them from those at AFTRA who would sacrifice their ability to make a living in order to save the struggling AFTRA organization.

When the “go-along-to-get along” AFTRA negotiators–lead by AFTRA President Roberta Reardon who had never worked under the contract –signed an agreement with the AMPTP, they undermined SAG’s negotiators ability to get a fair deal. And therefore they directly impacted SAG members’ ability to make a living. And although SAG’s leadership was severely criticized for advising dual card holders to vote NO on the AFTRA deal, they, not only, had every right to do so, but, in fact, had a fiduciary responsibility to do so.

Another, myth, or more precisely lie, spread by the pro merger forces, is that SAG tried to poach an AFTRA Soap, “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Once again, they offer no proof of their allegation. Of course, there is a good reason for this. It is not true, but, rather more propaganda from the Untruthful Ones. How do we know this? The following is a statement from Susan Flannery of “The Bold and Beautiful,” where she sits the record straight. http://sagwatchdog.com/cgi-bin/admin_config.pl/read/846

If there is one consistency of those who push merger myths, it is that they never offer any evidence to substantiate their claims.

Another irony in all of this merger talk is that those who have supported AFTRA’s agenda of poaching SAG’s contracts are the very same people who say we have to merge to stop AFTRA from getting SAG’s shows. First, they advocate AFTRA signing a sweetheart deal with employers and then they publicly bemoan the fact that AFTRA is getting all the new shows. And then use, the new AFTRA shows as a reason that SAG and AFTRA should merge.

Although, not exactly a myth, the idea that merging with AFTRA will stop AFTRA’s poaching of SAG contracts is a superficial solution at best. Yes, the poaching would most likely cease, at least under the present circumstances, but does that mean SAG members would get better contracts, which is the whole idea here. Taking a little closer look with a bit of historical perspective suggests that to the contrary contracts would get worse.

Supposing, SAG and AFTRA merge into a new entity. What happens to the current agreements SAG/AFTRA has with employers. Talk about a Sunset Clause. Everything would be up for negotiation. And does anyone believe that the AMPTP would be willing to just pick up where they left off when they have a completely new merged union to deal with. And if they didn’t, does anyone seriously believe that all those new non-actor members would be willing to go on strike to keep rates at their present levels. Yeah, right.

Look, if you think SAG is overly influenced by forces outside of Hollywood now, wait until it merges with AFTRA. SAG leaders have known since the early days of the union that once we merge with AFTRA the ability of Hollywood Members, where the majority of the TV/Theatrical work is done, to control their own destiny will be severely dissipated, to the point of non-existence.

Even back in 1956 SAG’s President understood the pitfalls of merging with AFTRA. Here is a letter from Mr. Pidgeon to the SAG membership on the subject of merger!

And while you’re at it, notice the names of those SAG members who were against merger, and compare them to the “Work For Food” UFS slate members like Kathy Joosten, Ned Vaughn, Amy Brenneman, and Adam Arkin who favor merger.

 

OFFICERS
WALTER PIDGEON PRESIDENTLEON AMES 1ST VICE-PRESIDENT

DANA ANDREWS 2ND VICE-PRESIDENT

WILLIAM LUNDIGAN 3RD VICE-PRESIDENT

ROBERT KEITH RECORDING SECRETARY

GEORGE CHANDLER TREASURER

JOHN L. DALES EXECUTIVE SECRETARY

DIRECTORS: SALLY BLANE, WARD BOND, GEORGE BOYCE, HILLARY BROOKE, JAMES CAGNEY, MACDONALD CAREY, CHICK CHANDLER, FRED CLARK, WENDELL COREY, ROBERT CUMMINGS, NANCY DAVIS, ROSEMARY DE CAMP, ANN DORAN FRANK FAYLEN, JOHN HOWARD, JOHN HUBBARD, RUTH HUSSEY, HOWARD KEEL, JOHN LITEL, FRANK LOVEJOY, JIMMY LYDON, PHILO MC COLLOUGH, FRANK MARLOWE,JUANITA MOORE,JACK MOWER,PHILIP OBER,
DONALD O’CONNOR, GILBERT PERKINS, DOROTHY PHILLIPS, RONALD REAGAN, JOHN RUSSELL, VERNE SMITH, GEORGE SOWARDS, GEORGIA STARK, BERT STEVENS, LYLE TALBOT, WILLIAM WALKER

BUSINESS REPRESENTATIVES:

AGENCY CHESTER L. MIGDEN
LABOR PAT SOMERSET
PUBLIC RELATIONS BUCK HARRIS
TELEVISION KENNETH THOMSON
COUNSEL WILLIAM BERGER
2B

BRANCH OF THE ASSOCIATED ACTORS AND ARTISTES OF AMERICA AFFILIATED WITH THE AFL-CIO

A REPORT FROM YOUR PRESIDENT

Dear Fellow Member:

Once again the issue of merging all or some actors’ unions has arisen. This is a report of our recent discussions with AFTRA officials on the question of merging our two unions in whole or in part, and of your Board’s position regarding merger.

Here is the background of these discussions: More than five years ago the television jurisdictions of AFTRA and Screen Actors Guild were settled by the Four A’s, the International by which all actors’ unions are chartered. After a series of National Labor Relations Board elections, the Screen Actors Guild became the certified union for actors in television motion pictures. AFTRA was certified for live television and television programs made “in the live manner” by kinescope or similar device.

During the years we worked under this sensible arrangement only one argument arose. This disagreement, as to whether the use of the Du Mont Electronicam, a motion picture camera with an electronic device attached, was or was not “in the live manner,” was arbitrated and the Guild won the decision.

While this arbitration was in progress, an AFTRA Committee completed a deal with Columbia Broadcasting System, National Broadcasting Company and American Broadcasting Company to expand the AFTRA contract to include all television motion pictures made with any device except the traditional motion picture camera. This deal was carefully concealed from the Screen Actors Guild and the AFTRA membership. This action by AFTRA baldly violated the basic motion picture jurisdiction of the Screen Actors Guild and is indefensible both legally and morally.

After thus needlessly creating jurisdictional conflict, AFTRA leaders requested a meeting to discuss merger with the Screen Actors Guild. The argument advanced by them for merger was that it would solve the very problem their deal with the network employers had created.

Although we were discouraged by AFTRA’s conduct, nevertheless for the good of all performers, we agreed to meet with them. Meanwhile, the Guild Board spent considerable time in a thorough study of all phases of merger. We then came to the unanimous conclusion that we cannot support merger with AFTRA.

The Board was compelled by the following in reaching its decision:

1.MERGER MEANS LOSS OF CONTROL OVER OUR OWN CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT

Merger with AFTRA, most of whose members earn their livelihood in radio and live television, would mean sharing control of our union affairs and conditions of employment with persons not conversant nor sympathetic with the problems of actors in the motion picture field. Even limited merger, under which separate SAG and AFTRA Boards would continue to function, would require the creation of a national super-board with final authority on such matters as negotiations, working conditions and strike action in the motion picture field.

It would not be in the best interest of actors that their conditions of employment be subject to the approval of those whose interests lie primarily in other fields. For this reason and despite great pressure, actors in the motion picture field in 1950 instructed the Guild not to join Television Authority, now AFTRA. The proposed AFTRA-SAG merger would be Television Authority under another name.

Had we succumbed to AFTRA’s arguments and pressures years ago, in all probability there would be little employment for actors in television motion pictures today, for AFTRA spokesmen and publications have made it clear that AFTRA policy is to promote live television at the expense of television motion pictures. This is AFTRA’s privilege. It is equally our privilege and our duty to make clear that AFTRA’s attitude toward television motion pictures is inequitable and that under merger it would adversely affect thousands who are presently employed as performers in television motion pictures and filmed television commercials under Screen Actors Guild contracts.

Because the Screen Actors Guild won its fight six years ago, the performers today are part of a thriving and growing television motion picture industry. This industry provides at least 50 percent of the total employment of actors in the motion picture field, is paying residual checks on television entertainment films at the rate of over $1,000,000 a year and many millions of dollars a year to performers in use payments for filmed television commercials.

It is our sincere conviction, based on long experience, that the interests of actors in live television, and in television motion pictures, must be separately administered by separate unions, each specializing in its own field.

2. MERGER MEANS WEAKENING OF DEMOCRATIC PROCESSES
Proponents of merger claim that one big actors’ union would provide greater collective bar-gaining strength than the several branches now have. This can be better achieved by strengthening and revitalizing the existing federation of actors’ unions — the Four A’s — without the dangers inherent in merger.

One of these dangers is that one big union requires cumbersome machinery of government with a multiplicity of boards and a new national super-board. This places ultimate power in the hands of a few, and must inevitably weaken democratic control of the union.

3. MERGER WOULD NOT LOWER DUES
No merger plan has yet been devised which would lower the cost of union membership. Most merger plans have contemplated an increase in dues.

While there might be small savings in consolidation of bookkeeping facilities, etc., these would be more than offset by the additional costs of maintaining a large national superstructure. Merger would not reduce the amount of work of the executives and general staffs of the two unions.

The most comprehensive merger plan ever drawn was that made by impartial professionals of the industrial relations departments of Cornell University and University of California at Los Angeles. Many of the present AFTRA leadership fought against this five-branch merger plan because, among other things, it would have increased dues.

If AFTRA and SAG were to merge, dues for most actors could not be reduced and in many cases would be increased. This point was fully recognized by all the representatives of both AFTRA and the Guild at our recent meetings.

4. MERGER IS CONTRARY TO BARGAINING UNITS DETERMINED BY NLRB

About five years ago, after exhaustive hearings, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the basic interests and conditions of employment of actors in television motion pictures are separate from those in live television and that therefore they should be represented by separate bargaining units. The current proposals for an AFTRA-SAG merger seek to accomplish indirectly what the NLRB ruled cannot be done. We believe that the NLRB decisions, based on the propriety of maintaining separate bargaining units in television films and in live television, are sound and should be preserved.

Technological advances in television, such as tape, in no way alter the workability and fairness of the established line of demarcation between SAG and AFTRA. Motion pictures are motion pictures whether on tape or film.

5. MERGER DOES NOT SOLVE JURISDICTIONAL DISPUTES

Proponents of merger claim that jurisdictional disputes would just “disappear.” This is entirely untrue. Jurisdictional disputes between actors’ unions actually are economic disagreements about the terms and conditions which should govern employment in different fields of entertainment. Merger would make the live-versus-film argument an internal one for the union. These internal conflicts and tensions would weaken the union to the point of disintegration.
6. MERGER MEANS ASSUMING THE INTERNAL PROBLEMS OF PARTNER

Merger means taking on all internal problems of the other partner to a merger. I am referring specifically to the political fights and schisms between various wings in the union, which periodically plague AFTRA, and from which we of the Screen Actors Guild have been singularly free.

THE GUILD’S AFFIRMATIVE COURSE

During our study, we went back to 1938, when a committee of the Four A’s after long investigation unanimously rejected the idea of one big union and instead strongly recommended that the ultimate power be retained in the branches, that the Four A’s be strengthened without impairing the independent authority of the branches, and that there be developed a better system of interchangeability of membership cards.

It is the unanimous feeling of the entire Guild Board that this committee was on the right track. Neither television nor tape nor the passing of time detracts from the wisdom of this committee’s recommendation. It is along these lines that our renewed efforts should take us, rather than along the hazardous course of merger.

It should be pointed out that the recent AFL-CIO merger was NOT a merger into one big union such as the proposed AFTRA-SAG merger. It was a merger and a strengthening of two labor federations composed of separate, autonomous unions which continue to retain their individual authority under the merger.

The Guild Board’s unanimous rejection of merger with AFTRA does not alter in any degree our sincere desire and intention to seek closer cooperation with AFTRA, toward the end of solving our mutual problems. However, we intend to control our own destinies in the motion picture field. Even the threat of further jurisdictional attacks cannot persuade us to surrender our own self-government. Disputes, if they arise, can and must be settled peaceably by negotiation or arbitration.

On the larger subject of the relations between actors’ unions within the Four A’s, we pledge ourselves to do all in our power to work toward closer cooperation and a better understanding of each other’s problems. We will work toward a stronger and more vigorous international federation and a simplified membership card plan for the entire entertainment industry. We invite AFTRA and all other branches of the Four A’s to join us in this program.
Sincerely and fraternally,

June 25, 1956

President
The Screen Actors Guild

How does the old saying go, the more things change the more they stay the same. Mr. Pidgeon was “right-on” then, as he would be “right-on” today!

The Ol’ Dog is under no illusion that he can make a better case than the one made by many of those who were at the forefront of establishing our great guild, but there is one other myth we should address.

The fact that if we merge, P&H can be addressed in post.

Yes, the health part of the equation could be addressed, but one only needs to look at the health plans of both unions to realize that if SAG merges into a health plan with AFTRA, it is going to suffer. Right now AFTRA co-payments are at the very least triple those of SAG’s. As a SAG member are you willing to make up the difference in order to stop AFTRA’s leadership from undercutting SAG’s contracts?

As for merging the pension plans of both unions, no one has yet figured out a way to accomplish this, especially in light of the fact that pension trustee’s have a fiduciary responsibility to their plans, and it has already been spelled out in the mercer memo that any merging of the AFTRA and SAG plans would not be beneficial to SAG participants.

Oh, by the way Consolidation Architect SAG CEO Bob Pisano never got back to them.

Hopefully, we have dispelled some of the merger myths put forward by the AFTRA First crowd. As for those Hits.

If SAG merges with AFTRA the Hits will just keep coming.

Besides taking the power away from Hollywood, where 75 percent of the TV/Theatrical work is done, consider all the internal turmoil bringing 30,000 broadcasters, who refuse to abide by Rule One, will entail.

So, will we allow the likes of Larry King, Brian Williams and hundreds of others at CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC to continue to work non-union while telling actors they must abide by the dictates of Rule One. And what happens, if SAG brings charges against many of the high profile AFTRA broadcasters who refuse to comply. You think we have lawsuits now. Oh, Nellie, just wait. Yes the hits will just keep coming.

This whole idea that we should merge with AFTRA to stop them from poaching our contracts, is sort of like catching someone burglarizing your home and instead of prosecuting, you invite the burglar to move in with you.

The truth of the matter is that if we really want to keep all actors under one roof, SAG needs to quit screwing around and enforce it’s charter which gives it jurisdiction over all acting except that done in the manner of a live broadcast.

Oh, and the final myth. Our employers don’t want us to merge. Right, that’s the reason in the recent negotiations, they stipulated that the contract would be for three years, unless, of course, SAG and AFTRA agreed that in TWO YEARS they would negotiate together. *

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief

 

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: