Showbizreporting's Blog

July 4, 2009

Justine Bateman Resigns

Justine Bateman has resigned from the Screen Actors Guild’s national board of directors, blasting the moderates who control the board and repeating her characterization of AFTRA as a “scumbag” union. In a letter made public Friday, Bateman also expressed frustration over SAG members not sharing her views toward and their recent 78% approval of the feature-primetime contract. “They rarely expressed the correct anger at AFTRA low-balling contracts over the years that affected their ability to provide for themselves,” she said. “They then ignored, seemingly, ALL the news about the migration from Old Media to New Media and recently took from the AMPTP the worst deal I have ever seen. For nothing.” Bateman and other opponents insisted during the anti-ratification campaign that the migration of programming to digital platforms required that actors receive sweeter terms than those contained in the two-year deal. “SAG’s members themselves have now voted up a contract that will cause about 50% of the working members to leave the business, but now that you’re all ‘back to work’ you’re probably too busy to read this,” she said in the letter. “Congratulations.” Bateman’s slot on the board will be filled by an appointed rep from the Hollywood Division board, then become one of the seats up for election in September. The departure of Bateman, one of the more high-profile board members allied with the more assertive Membership First faction, will make it more difficult for that group to regain control of the board from the moderate coalition. Bateman said she initially run for the board three years ago in order to address three issues — the SAG web site, the poor agent-relations, and the “seeming absence” of jurisdictional lines between SAG and AFTRA. She said the web site has been improved but other issues had become worse. Bateman asserted that agents have a conflict of interest by acting as production companies themselves. SAG lost oversight of most major agencies in 2002 when SAG members voted down a revamp of the franchise agreement that eased the ownership restrictions. Bateman gained notice last year for her attack of AFTRA, calling it a “scumbag” union. AFTRA subsequently angrily split from SAG and negotiated its primetime deal separately. Most new pilots have signed with AFTRA since then; additionally, SAG patched up its relations with AFTRA and signed a non-disparagement agreement in order to jointly negotiate a commercials contract “AFTRA has just basically, after years of trying to get SAG’s attention by lighting the newspapers on the porch on fire, have finally succeeded in partially burning the place down,” Bateman said in the Friday letter. “And all we dual-card members be damned. We should have bought that scumbag organization years ago and shut that duplicitous leadership up instead of submitting to this ‘non-disparagement agreement’ by which I am, happily, no longer bound.” She also blasted the SAG board, which saw moderates gain control over the hardline Membership First faction last fall, for requiring that SAG president Alan Rosenberg no longer be allowed to be the official public voice of the union. “What is this?” she asked. “Communist China or tumultuous Iran? I can’t be a part of a union leadership that strips it’s elected leadership of its voice. If we can’t speak up about injustices in union matters, how are we being effective at all in office? No, better to not be a part of it and to be able to speak freely against what I see as irresponsibility, fear, greed, and ego-driven decision-making.” SAG First VP Anne-Marie Johnson told Daily Variety that Bateman was speaking for herself and not on behalf of Membership First.

HERE’S BATEMAN’S RESIGNATION LETTER, DATED JULY 1, 2009.

To All,

I am resigning my position as SAG National Board member and withdrawing my bid for re-election effective immediately.

I initially ran for the Board 3 years ago to affect a change in three areas: the almost non-functioning web-site, the poor agent-relations, and the seeming absence of jurisdictional lines between SAG and AFTRA.

I am happy to have been able to effect the change in the web-site with the help of that committee, Doug Allan, and Pamela Greenwald, but the other goals have alluded me and have just become worse.

Agents are now not only owned in part by organizations that would create conflict of interest, but acting as the production company themselves and nobody saw fit to stop that. Now, though, we’re very far on the other side of that and I suppose actors have not really given thought to to the concept of being represented by an advocate with no conflicting alliances.

AFTRA has just basically, after years of trying to get SAG’s attention by lighting the newspapers on the porch on fire, have finally succeeded in partially burning the place down. And all we dual-card members be damned.

We should have bought that scumbag organization years ago and shut that duplicitous leadership up instead of submitting to this “non-disparagement agreement” by which I am, happily, no longer bound.

And our own SAG leadership gagging Alan Rosenberg and Connie Stevens? What is this? Communist China or tumultuous Iran? I can’t a part of a union leadership that strips it’s elected leadership of its voice. If we can’t speak up about injustices in union matters, how are we being effective at all in office? No, better to not be a part of it and to be able to speak freely against what I see as irresponsibility, fear, greed, and ego-driven decision-making.

And then there is the membership itself. They rarely expressed the correct anger at AFTRA low-balling contracts over the years that affected their ability to provide for themselves. They then ignored, seemingly, ALL the news about the migration from Old Media to New Media and recently took from the AMPTP the worst deal I have ever seen. For nothing.

This is not the make up of membership that could have gotten us Health and Pension or Residuals like our older members struck and fought for years ago. We have all enjoyed those benefits, but when it was our turn to protect them, we blew it. AFTRA blew it. And then we blew it by not expressing absolute outrage over their tactic of GREATLY encouraging their newscasters and weathermen to vote up that AFTRA TV/Theatrical contract “even if you do not work this contract and never will”. Yeah, that was in an e-mail that went around. Some of these weathermen even made YouTube videos celebrating their vote, thumbing their noses at us. CLASSY.

SAG’s members themselves have now voted up a contract that will cause about 50% of the WORKING members to leave the business, but now that you’re all “back to work” you’re probably too busy to read this. Congratulations.

Thank you for allowing me to serve and to represent the membership. I hope I honored the sacrifices of past Board Members who created such wonderful benefits for me and my family like Pension & Health, Basic Minimums, and Residuals. To those members I am truly, truly grateful. Words cannot express my appreciation of your sacrifices for future generations of actors.

Thank You,
Justine Bateman

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