Showbizreporting's Blog

December 8, 2009

SAG, AFTRA FACE DEADLINE

SAG, AFTRA face deadline
Unions must decide soon if they are to negotiate together
By DAVE MCNARY

The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists are facing a looming deadline within the next few months if they’re going to negotiate together on the primetime-feature contract with the majors.
The performers unions haven’t yet taken any formal steps toward joint bargaining, even with SAG obligated to begin seven weeks of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on Oct. 1. The current SAG and AFTRA master contracts — negotiated separately for the first time in three decades — both expire on June 30, 2011.

AFTRA president Roberta Reardon has held informal discussions recently with SAG prexy Ken Howard about the issue. She admitted that a decision by AFTRA will probably be made before the end of the first quarter, given that both unions require several months for a “wages and working conditions” process of meetings with members to hammer out contract proposals prior to the start of bargaining.

“We’ve had a lot of internal discussion about joint negotiations but we haven’t formalized anything,” she told Daily Variety. “We would do it if it were something that’s to the advantage of all our members.”

SAG declined to comment on Reardon’s statements.

Reardon noted that AFTRA’s also facing looming expirations on two of its other major contracts — sound recordings, which expires June 30; and network code, which ends on Nov. 15. The AFTRA netcode pact covers about $400 million in annual earnings from dramatic programs in syndication or outside primetime, daytime serial dramas, gameshows, talkshows, variety and musical programs, news, sports, reality shows and promotional announcements.

“We have a little bit of a pileup in terms of scheduling,” Reardon added.

She also said that no definitive steps have been taken toward a SAG-AFTRA merger, voted down by SAG members in 1999 and 2003, indicating that combining the unions remains a long-term goal. “I got into AFTRA politics eight years ago because I believe that performers should be in a single union, but if we’re going to do that, we need to take the time to do it right,” she added.

Relations between SAG and AFTRA hit a low early last year when AFTRA angrily split off from joint negotiations over jurisdiction and reached its own primetime deal. SAG — which still hadn’t shifted control to the moderates — then blasted terms of the pact, which had a relatively low 62% ratification. With SAG not reaching a deal until a year later, AFTRA was able to sign up the lion’s share of this year’s TV pilots that were shot digitally.

In the fall of 2008, AFTRA and SAG agreed to a separate deal aimed at ending the bickering between the unions. Brokered by the AFL-CIO, the agreement included “nondisparagement” language along with fines and other discipline for violators; the unions then agreed to joint negotiations on the commercials contract and reached a new three-year deal with the ad industry last spring.

But the enmity toward AFTRA remains strong in some SAG quarters. Its Hollywood board passed a resolution in May to explore the “acquisition” of actors repped through AFTRA, leading to an AFL-CIO umpire warning SAG it would face “severe” fines for any further discussions of an “acquisition” and ordering the guild to officially disavow the statement.

SAG’s Membership First faction, which controls the Hollywood board, staunchly opposes any merger and contends that SAG should represent all acting work. Howard campaigned as the head of the Unite For Strength ticket, which explicitly advocates combining the unions.

“We should merge to create a single powerful union that covers all the work we do, making it impossible for our employers to divide us,” the faction has noted. “That’s what Unite for Strength is all about.”

SAG and AFTRA have shared jurisdiction over primetime series and the long-standing agreement has been that SAG reps all projects shot on film, while SAG and AFTRA have an equal shot at projects shot electronically. With more primetime skeins shot in high-def digital formats, AFTRA’s electronic purview has greatly expanded in the past two years as nearly all primetime pilots went AFTRA.

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118012309.html?categoryId=13&cs=1

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September 25, 2009

SAG Election Results are in!

SAG elects Ken Howard president
Amy Aquino chosen as secretary-treasurer
By Jay A. Fernandez

Sept 24, 2009, 10:24 PM ET

Updated: Sept 24, 2009, 11:10 PM ET
There are surely more conflicts to come, but the Screen Actors Guild membership on Thursday night settled a big one: Ken Howard has been elected the union’s new national president.

Running mate Amy Aquino beat two-time incumbent Connie Stevens in the race for secretary-treasurer. Howard and Aquino will serve two-year terms beginning Friday.

For the moment, at least, the outcomes indicate that a winning 47.2% of the voting segment of SAG’s roughly 120,000 members prefers the less strident approach of the self-styled moderate wing of the party represented by Unite for Strength.

Howard collected 12,895 votes, or 3,989 more than MembershipFirst candidate Anne-Marie Johnson, who received 32.6% of the 27,295 votes cast. Independents Seymour Cassel and Asmar Muhammad garnered 17.7% and 1.5%, respectively, in their bid for the presidency.

UFS came together last year in opposition and in January led a boardroom coup at SAG, installed new negotiators and salvaged a deal with Hollywood producers nearly a year after sister union AFTRA had ratified its own contract. Johnson is part of a separate coalition, Membership First, that was shunted to the board’s minority and saw its leader, president Alan Rosenberg, muzzled on most official guild business.

Howard, who picked up an acting Emmy on Sunday for his role in HBO’s “Grey Gardens,” campaigned on bringing a more collaborative approach to relationships with AFTRA, the DGA and WGA. Segments of those groups were alienated by the often-heated rhetoric of Rosenberg and 1st national vp Johnson.

“I campaigned on the promise that I’d do everything in my power to strengthen our position at the bargaining table by building a greater unity with AFTRA and the other entertainment unions, and that’s exactly what I intend to do,” Howard said. “Despite the sharp differences that those of us active in guild affairs sometimes have over strategy and tactics, we need to continually remind ourselves that we’re all on the same team, fighting for the same thing — and by pulling together, we’ll only grow stronger.”

UFS expanded the narrow majority it established on the 71-member national board in the September 2008 elections. The next Hollywood board meeting with newly seated members is scheduled for Oct. 5.

In concert with the national result, Mike Hodge was elected president of SAG’s New York branch, succeeding Sam Freed, who passed the moderate baton to his fellow United Screen Actors Nationwide member.

Hodge defeated Mitchell Green, a SAGNOW partisan affiliated with the more hard-line MembershipFirst faction. USAN, which is affiliated with UFS, has dominated SAG politics in New York in the recent past.

The results seem to reflect an industrywide fatigue resulting from the 2007-08 writers strike and the protracted SAG contract negotiations that ended in June. Last week, the WGA elected John Wells to the top slot over the more hard-line Writers United candidate Elias Davis. The rest of the WGA officers, however, were split with Writers United.

Among the immediate challenges facing Howard are retention of coverage of network pilots and the next round of negotiations for a new TV-theatrical contract. As part of the last deal, SAG agreed to start seven weeks of bargaining with the AMPTP as early as October 2010.

Additionally, the shifting economic and labor landscape has resulted in a looming decrease in benefits and increase in premiums beginning in January as a result of investment losses and decreased employer contributions. The damaged pension and health benefits situation became a political hot potato during the campaign.

Mending fences with sister unions DGA, WGA and AFTRA is a high priority for Howard as well. AFTRA members re-elected Roberta Reardon to the presidency in early August. As a UFS candidate, Howard preached the benefit of a collective approach with AFTRA and its roughly 70,000 members in negotiations with the studios and networks, an approach that was abandoned by the previous SAG regime.

The presence of Cassel in the election surely cost Johnson some votes, since he also remains a stalwart MembershipFirst partisan. Cassel narrowly lost to Rosenberg in the 2007 election, but he was dinged by an internal sexual harassment case against him that became public during this most recent campaign.

The National Board members elected Thursday will assume office Friday for terms of three years.

SAG’s Hollywood Division elected 11 National Board members; the New York division elected four National Board members; and seven National Board members were elected from the union’s branches in Chicago, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Philadelphia, Portland and San Diego.

National Board members elected from the Hollywood Division in addition to Sheen, Harris, Johnson, Stevens and Ladd were Elliott Gould, Ed Asner, Dule Hill, Hill Harper, Nancy Travis and Marcia Wallace (all three-year terms).

The following were elected to serve as National Board alternates and to the Hollywood division board (all one-year terms): Rosenberg, Gabrielle Carteris, Jenny O’Hara, Michael O’Keefe, Clyde Kusatsu, Dawnn Lewis, Doug Savant, Michelle Allsopp, D.W. Moffett, Joe Bologna, Robert Hays, Jason George, L. Scott Caldwell, Clark Gregg, Patrick Fabian, Bill Smitrovich, Ellen Crawford, Stacey Travis, Mandy Steckelberg, Renee Taylor, Bernie Casey and John Carroll Lynch.

National Board members elected from the New York division: Freed, Sharon Washington, Monica Trombetta and Liz Zazzi (all three-year terms).

The following were elected to serve as national board alternates and to the New York division board of directors (all one-year terms): Manny Alfaro, Sheila Head, Marc Baron, Joe Narciso, Jay Potter, Dave Bachman, John Rothman, Kevin Scullin and Justin Barrett.

National Board members elected from the Regional Branch division, all with three-year terms: John Carter Brown (Chicago), David Hartley-Margolin (Colorado), Dave Corey (Florida), Scott Rogers (Hawaii), Helen McNutt (Philadelphia), Mary McDonald-Lewis (Portland) and Don Ahles (San Diego).

Ballots for all eligible SAG members in Hollywood and New York were mailed on Aug. 25.

September 20, 2009

DML SAG President

SAG Presidential Candidate: I’ll Seek Strike Authorization Next Year if Elected

Posted: 19 Sep 2009 02:18 PM PDT

In an open conference call today, SAG VP and presidential candidate Anne-Marie Johnson said she will seek a strike authorization next year, before the mandated early negotiations next fall, if she’s elected. She argued that that’s what’s needed to gain bargaining leverage and added that she’s “confident” the SAG membership would vote Yes, especially after the guild conducts an educational outreach campaign during its wages and working conditions (W&W) meetings with members.

Johnson added that some people say her Membership First faction is strike happy. She denied that, but said that union members would feel the impact of new media defects in the existing contract before the negotiations next fall, and added that she thought at least 75% of the board will support a strike authorization. She also argued that the sunset clause in the contract, which calls for blank-slate renegotiation of the new media provisions, is “not worth the paper its written on.” That’s seems to be a signal that she thinks a strike will be necessary to force renegotiation.

In an email interview with me, Ned Vaughn, spokesman and board candidate on the moderate Unite for Strength slate, responded as follows:

How we address a strike authorization depends on what we see headed into the negotiations. It’s my firm belief that we must negotiate the next TV/Theatrical contract jointly with AFTRA, so it’s not a decision that would be made unilaterally. That said, the sole focus of Unite for Strength is increasing performers’ bargaining power, so if a strike authorization is needed, we would certainly support it.

I also spoke with an AMPTP spokesman, but he declined comment, explaining that the AMPTP (studio/producers alliance) never comments on guild internal affairs or elections. For the same reason, he declined to comment on last week’s election of moderate candidate John Wells at the WGA.

It’s my sense that Johnson may be at least partially right – i.e., that the union’s board would support a strike authorization, albeit not unanimously. Whether the membership would also is a harder question, since next fall is only a year and half after the end of the devastating Membership First-led SAG stalemate which cost members an estimated $85 million in lost wages, and followed a devastating WGA strike.

In any case, there’s no doubt that the union has a lot of unfinished business in the upcoming round of negotiations. Compromises that were reasonable or necessary in this past round may become less so as new media advances.

For example, move-over residuals (for reruns on the Internet) are very low, and it seems unreasonably so. If the studios become able to make more money on the Internet, those residuals need to increase, although the Internet’s economics are unlikely to ever support the lucrative level of prime-time network residuals, which can range from approximately $800 to $3,200 (or $3,500? I don’t have my SAG agreement close at hand). All content companies – management, in other words – are being squeezed by technology, and labor is not exempt.

When will the studios become able to make significant money on the Internet? That depends in part on how far new media advances and becomes able to replace network and cable TV not just for young people viewing content on their PC’s, but also the general population who prefer to watch content on the big screen TVs they’ve purchased.

My own experience is instructive. I just bought a new flat-screen TV, a 42” LG 42LH50. It’s an Internet-capable model that just came out 6 months ago, and CNET says it has the most advanced Internet capabilities of any TV they’ve reviewed.

Yet, I got a ridiculously great deal. (Trust me, you don’t want to know.) That, of course, is a reflection on how poorly consumer electronics are selling in this economy, which means that we’re a long ways away from lots of people buying Internet-capable TVs. The technology now makes it possible, but the economics don’t yet make it a practical reality.

Now, the TV can play anything available on YouTube or Yahoo. It can even Twitter (how weird) and do other cool stuff, such as play AP news videos, no doubt to the detriment of network news programs, which survive, if at all, on advertising revenues based on viewership. Every content creator is in trouble in the new media world.

So does my new TV’s Internet capabilities mean I can stop watching conventional TV? No. Not only does it not get Hulu or other network websites such as CBS.com, even the YouTube and Yahoo it does get are unusable. That’s because there’s no keyboard, just a remote, so to search for a video, you have to painstakingly press keys multiple times, just like texting on a non-smart phone. It’s even worse, because the keypad on the remote isn’t as usable as a cellphone keypad: it’s not as firm and doesn’t click. And then you get 17,000 hits and how are you going to sort through that?

So, the technology isn’t here yet in a practical sense, even for those who can afford the newest or are lucky enough to score a great deal. But the day is certainly coming. Business models are still shifting, and we might see the shift to new media retarded by pay walls around content or by add-on charges from ISPs (cable companies and telco’s) levied on people who watch large quantities of bandwidth hogging streaming or downloaded media.

In any case, the unions will be under enormous pressure to get improvements in the new media deal, even with the election this week of the moderate Wells at the WGA and the likely election of Ken Howard, the moderate Unite for Strength candidate for SAG president. Let’s hope that the studios and AMPTP recognize that next year is the time to deal with deferred business and negotiate in a more moderate fashion, or we may see a joint SAG-WGA (and possibly AFTRA) strike.

Now let’s return to that conference call. The first question is, what if you gave a conference call open to all SAG members and nobody came? That’s essentially what happened to Membership First – twice. Last week’s call had about 16 callers at most during the call. Today’s maxed out at about the same. (The call-in system announced the number of callers, and I checked repeatedly.)

And let’s look at that 16 number. Deduct 4 candidates (see next paragraph), me, at least one anti-MFer that I know of (lets say there were 2 or so), assume a couple of planted MF partisans (it’d be silly not to plant a few people) and that leaves at best 7 undecideds. What a fizzle.

Most of the prepared questions, and most of the ones asked on the calls, were softballs, many of which included pro-MF statements as the premise of the question. Most of the answers, from Johnson and MF board candidates Charles Shaughnessy, Erik-Anders Nilsson and Jordana Capra, were unsurprising and generally reiterated statements MF has made publicly before.

The newsworthy stuff in addition to the above? In last week’s call, Johnson said she was paying her own legal fees in the long-running, counter-productive suit she, outgoing SAG president Allen Rosenberg and SAG board members Diane Ladd and Kent McCord brought against their own union. (How bizarre that she’s sued the union she now seeks to lead.)

That appears to contradict Rosenberg ’s statement three months ago that he was receiving legal services pro-bono. Johnson also said she wouldn’t bring a motion to have her legal fees reimbursed. However, she didn’t address the likely possibility that another Membership First board member will, nor did she say she would refuse a check if offered. She acknowledged that the lawsuit has cost SAG $170,000 so far, but made no mention of the legal fees she and the other plaintiffs have incurred.

In a separate matter, Johnson claimed that she never said she would fire interim National Executive Director David White if elected, contrary to my report last week. However, she then essentially contradicted herself and confirmed my understanding, by saying there would be a search committee appointed and White could be a candidate if he wished. It sure doesn’t sound like Johnson wants White in the job permanently, and I suspect Doug Allen might be brought back, notwithstanding Johnson’s quasi-denial that I reported last week.

In an out of left field question, someone asked whether pro wrestlers should be allowed to join SAG. Johnson answered that they would have to if they were in a film, but that pro wrestling matches, because they are shot in sequence (i.e., in the manner of live shows), would potentially be under AFTRA jurisdiction, and so the question should be directed at that union. But why not allow wrestlers to join anyway? The current SAG election is a slam-down, so they’d fit right in.

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Subscribe to my blog (jhandel.com) for more about entertainment law and digital media law. Go to the blog itself to subscribe via RSS or email. Or, follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, or subscribe to my Huffington Post articles. If you work in tech, check out my book How to Write LOIs and Term Sheets.

August 3, 2009

Campaign funds

Dear New York Member,

We are writing on behalf of United Screen Actors Nationwide – USAN. Since 2000, USAN has asked for your support and your votes, and you have given us both. Another SAG election is upon us. This election will determine the future of the Guild for years to come and that decision will have a direct effect on all of our livelihoods.

This year in New York, we once again face opposition from Alan Rosenberg and Anne Marie Johnson’s MembershipFirst faction in Hollywood and their surrogates in NY, running under the Trojan Horse heading of “SAGNOW“. If they regain their National Board majority, we will see more of our dues money spent on fighting AFTRA and their contracts, more “go it alone” negotiations, and the very likely re-hiring of Doug Allen as National Executive Director. Doug Allen and MembershipFirst failed to successfully negotiate even one of the eight contracts that were due in 2008, while spending over a million dollars of our dues money to try to convince us that they were doing a great job. Fortunately, we New Yorkers are not that gullible.

In the last year, the members of the NY Board, along with our allies in the Regional Branches, and our newly elected compatriots in Hollywood, took the steps necessary to oust Doug Allen. Allen’s and MembershipFirst’s, failed “destroy AFTRA” strategy led to the loss of many tens of millions of dollars in earnings under the Theatrical & TV Contract when those negotiations were dragged out for close to a year, and millions more lost under the Commercial Contract — which had to be extended for six months because of the prolonged Theatrical and TV negotiations. Add to those losses the damage done to our Pension and Health Fund.

The NY Board and our allies then fought to install a thoughtful and strategic national executive director (David White) and to successfully close both the Theatrical & TV and Commercial Contract negotiations and have them ratified by overwhelming numbers. We were also instrumental in closing the long-delayed Basic Cable Agreement and are currently working on negotiating new TV and Cable Animation contracts. This has all been accomplished since February.

USAN needs not only your votes, we need your contributions to run a campaign that will ensure that we can continue the progress we have made this year. The MembershipFirst/SAGNOW slate is very well funded. We need to be too.

If you believe, as we do, that the best hope for the future of professional performers in NY and across this country lies in eliminating the insanity of multiple unions representing us for the same work, and that the most reasonable way to accomplish that is by working to merge our unions, rather than driving them apart, then please consider contributing your money and your time to this campaign, so that we can continue to take the steps to get us there. We welcome any help you can give us.

The candidates that USAN are asking you to support include National Officer candidates:

Ken Howard – President
Amy Aquino – Secretary/Treasurer

And this year’s NY Nominating Committee candidates, who represent a diverse cross-section of the NY membership and work experience are:

New York Division President:
Mike Hodge

For the New York Board:
Liz Zazzi, Manny Alfaro, Dave Bachman, Marc Baron,
Justin Barrett, Sam Freed, Sheila Head, Joe Narciso,
Jay Potter, John Rothman, Kevin Scullin,
Monica Trombetta, and Sharon Washington

You can make contributions by credit card or PayPal through our website (personal credit card only – no corporate cards). If you wish to send a check please message us for instructions.

Please help any way you can. And please forward this to your friends who may be affected. All of our livelihoods are at stake.

Thanks in advance for your help,

Sam Freed,
Current NY Division President – NY Board Candidate

Mike Hodge,
Current NY Division Vice-President – NY Division Presidential Candidate

July 25, 2009

Fixing the Residuals System

Fixing the Residuals System

Posted: 24 Jul 2009 04:19 PM PDT

The residuals system is broken. It’s expensive to administer and is an invitation to conflict as platforms such as new media evolve. Yet we need residuals, because talent survives on these payments between gigs. Can the system be fixed?

Yes, I believe so. For a proposal, see my piece in today’s Hollywood Reporter.

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Subscribe to my blog (jhandel.com) for more about entertainment law and digital media law. Go to the blog itself to subscribe via RSS or email. Or, follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, or subscribe to my Huffington Post articles. If you work in tech, check out my new book How to Write LOIs and Term Sheets.

Rosenberg v. SAG Lawsuit Reply Brief Filed

Posted: 24 Jul 2009 11:20 AM PDT

The appeal grinds on. SAG president Alan Rosenberg and three other Membership First hardliners (1st VP Anne-Marie Johnson and board members Diane Ladd and Kent McCord) filed their reply brief earlier this week.

I’m told there will be oral argument (unscheduled as yet). That’ll drive up the price to SAG of this nonsense by probably about $5,000 more: I’d imagine several attorneys for a mock practice session for several hours, then two attorneys for oral argument for a half day or so. Members’ dues money at work, thanks to MembershipFirst.

———————Subscribe to my blog (jhandel.com) for more about entertainment law and digital media law. Go to the blog itself to subscribe via RSS or email. Or, follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, or subscribe to my Huffington Post articles. If you work in tech, check out my new book How to Write LOIs and Term Sheets.

July 24, 2009

More candidates

Cassel to Run for SAG President as Independent
Seymour Cassel, a national board member for SAG and 50-year acting veteran who nearly upset Alan Rosenberg for the guild’s national presidency two years ago, told Back Stage that he will seek the office again, as an independent, making it at least a three-person race for the union’s highest elected office.

Additionally, Anne-Marie Johnson, the first vice president and spokeswoman for MembershipFirst, SAG’s hard-line faction, will also seek the presidency, two guild sources have stated. Johnson told Back Stage Thursday that her party’s slate of candidates would be announced Sunday and that she would neither confirm nor deny anything until then.

Indications are that Rosenberg will not seek a third term, even though he indicated in early June that he would.

Cassel and Johnson will vie for the presidency against Ken Howard, the choice of Unite for Strength, a Hollywood-based faction that is part of SAG’s moderate wing. Howard announced his candidacy yesterday <http://backstage.blogs.com/espresso/2009/07/ken-howard-to-run-for-sag-president-on-ufs-slate.html> , the day election petitions were due to be filed with the guild.

In speaking with Back Stage, Cassel said, “The guild has gone astray….. If you’ve paid any attention you’ve seen what’s happened. I as an actor am just not pleased with it. Not for myself, not for other actors.”

July 21, 2009

SAG’s slate of candidates still secret

SAG’s slate of candidates still secret

Membership First coalition to announce Sunday

SAG 

 

 

 

Despite a fast-approaching Thursday filing deadline, the two factions within the Screen Actors Guild have continued to keep their slate of candidates for the guild’s September elections under wraps.

The Membership First coalition, which is aiming to regain control of SAG’s national board, has opted to announce its slate Sunday at a fund-raiser at the Beverly Hills home of board members Joe Bologna and Renee Taylor. SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg and secretary-treasurer Connie Stevens are hosting the event along with eight co-hosts: Barbara Eden, Dick Van Patten and national board members Scott Bakula, Anne De Salvo, Joely Fisher, Lainie Kazan, Nancy Sinatra and JoBeth Williams.

Since Rosenberg said conditionally six weeks ago that he’d seek a third two-year term, no one else has stepped forward to run for president. First VP Anne-Marie Johnson has admitted her name is under consideration as a Membership First candidate but has also stressed that no final decision has been made.

Membership First plans to run a full slate of candidates in Hollywood — where moderates from Unite for Strenght wrested control of the national board last fall — along with slates in New York and Chicago. About a third of the 71 seats are up in the election, with results due to be announced Sept. 24.

The Unite for Strength faction, which has a slim majority on the national board in a coalition with board members from SAG’s branches, hasn’t yet revealed any of its candidates. Rumors on possible presidential candidates have included national board members Adam Arkin and Morgan Fairchild, alernate national board member Ned Vaughn, Jason Alexander and former secretary-treasurer James Cromwell.

The overwhelming 78% ratification of SAGs feature-primetime contract — despite fervent opposition by Rosenberg and Membership First — has convinced many that the moderates will prevail in the election. But voting by SAG members has remained unpredictable over the past decade.

July 15, 2009

Membership First Voting


The Hollywood Board of Membership First proved the deception of their name last night when they put the wishes of the Membership dead last.  They ignored our voice as expressed in the last election when we summarily rejected David Jolliffe’s bid for a board seat.  He lost…  We did not vote for him.  Yet today, we find, he is, almost as if by magic, back on the National Board.

Last night at the Hollywood Board Meeting of SAG, Membership First manipulated the rules which govern our board to suit their cause.

Sitting National Board member Justine Bateman resigned her board seat.  The rule states that the seat be filled with the highest vote-getting alternate (voted upon by us, the members) – in this case, Marcia Wallace.  But Marcia is a member of Unite for Strength.  Hmm.  What to do….  I know, let’s just change the rules.

The Hollywood Board passed over Marcia and instead dug down to the bottom of the heap and fished out David Joliffe.  As you might recall, David was voted out of both his National and Hollywood board seats when we,  the Hollywood members overwhelmingly rejected his candidacy. But no matter to MF.  If they followed the rules and put Marcia in as Justine’s replacement, they would be one MF member down on the National Board.  So, they just changed the rule.  Just like that.  To suit their cause.  And ignored the voice of us, the members.

One last thing.  It was Membership First who instated the protocol of replacing resigning board members with the highest vote-getting alternate when that suited them.  This is how they keep a grip on power.  That is not me talking.  That is the record.

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

June 16, 2009

Digital Media Law: SAG Lawsuit Still Grinds On; Court Denies SAG’s Motion to Dismiss Appeal

SAG Lawsuit Still Grinds On; Court Denies SAG’s Motion to Dismiss Appeal

As I previously reported, SAG’s counsel in late May filed a motion to dismiss the appeal by SAG president Alan Rosenberg and three other Membership First hardliners (1st VP Anne-Marie Johnson and board members Diane Ladd and Kent McCord) of a Superior Court order that denied their application for a temporary restraining order. On June 5—just days before the new TV/theatrical contracts were ratified—Rosenberg et al. filed a brief opposing the motion to dismiss.

Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals on June 9 issued a one-sentence order denying the motion to dismiss, presumably meaning that the appeal is too complex to be decided without oral argument (or, at least, full briefing). So, the appeal grinds on. Rosenberg et al. previously filed their brief in the appeal. SAG’s responsive brief is due July 1. Thereafter, Rosenberg et al. get to file a reply brief, and then there will probably be oral argument at some point. Within 90 days after the oral argument, the court will issue its ruling.

In other words, the appeal will probably drag on until sometime in November unless Rosenberg et al. are persuaded to drop it. Meanwhile, the suit itself proceeds in the trial court as well. Confused as to how a case can proceed in two courts at once? Well, it happens, and the legal fees aren’t cheap. All of this sounds like a campaign issue that Unite for Strength will probably raise—why reelect a president who persists in suing his own union? UPDATE: Indeed, as SAGWatch points out, by continuing to pursue their lawsuit, Rosenberg et al. are reneging on a promise Anne-Marie Johnson publicly made to withdraw the suit if the TV/theatrical contracts were approved.

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