Showbizreporting's Blog

October 1, 2009

DML SAG Results

SAG: Four Hardline Horsemen in the National Board Room

Posted: 27 Sep 2009 03:29 PM PDT

Thursday’s SAG election was a victory for the moderate coalition. Yet, strangely enough, the leaders of the losing hardline faction will all find seats on the national board, and will continue to be a shadow government within the union’s Hollywood board—a board on which none of the key moderate leaders will be voting members.

Yes, the moderates (Unite for Strength (UFS) / USAN / RBD / independents) won the national offices – President and Secretary-Treasurer – and picked up additional national board seats and many on the Hollywood board as well. But with SAG, the story is never simple.

In fact, paradoxically, 1st VP and failed Membership First presidential candidate Anne-Marie Johnson will probably continue as 1st VP, ex-president Alan Rosenberg will almost certainly be back on the national board in a matter of days despite winning only an alternate seat, MF leader David Joliffe will probably be on the Hollywood board and effectively on the national board, and MF leader Kent McCord continues on the national and Hollywood boards.

Meanwhile, none of the key moderate leaders will be on the Hollywood board— Unite for Strength leaders Ned Vaughn, Assaf Cohen, Ken Howard and Amy Aquino are all off of that board, at least as voting members (the latter two will serve ex-officio, as non-voting members). Tough independent and former presidential candidate Morgan Fairchild remains, but she’s not a member of the UFS slate and thus doesn’t occupy a leadership position in that group. UFS-ers Adam Arkin and Amy Brenneman also remain, and perhaps will emerge to fill the gap.

How could the election yield so much change in the national offices and so little in the Hollywood Division? Here’s the scenario [UPDATED: Para. 3 is new.]:

1. The moderates seemingly have 27 seats on the Hollywood board out of 55 (because 27 = 6 seats pre-election plus 21 additional seats won in the election). That’s a tad less than half (49%). It would seemingly take peeling off one more vote from MF for the moderates to control the Hollywood board.

2. However, look closer. One of those 6 pre-election seats was held by Ken Howard. Under the SAG Constitution and By-Laws, a national officer can’t also be an elected member of the national board or a Divisional board. So, the day he became president, Howard lost his elected seat on the national and Hollywood boards, and, indeed, his name has been replaced on SAG website listings with “(1 TBD).” That leaves the moderates with 26 seats on the Hollywood board out of 54. That’s less than half by an even greater margin (48%). Now it would take 2 more votes, rather than just one, for the moderates to control the Hollywood board.

3. But, when it comes to electing officers (such as 1st VP) or selecting replacements for the Hollywood and national boards, the news is even bleaker for moderates. That’s because the Hollywood Division Rules of Procedure specify that for such purposes, the only Hollywood Division board members who can vote are national board members (or alternates sitting in for them) from the Hollywood Division. There are 32 such people (33 minus the vacant Ken Howard seat). The moderates control only 9 of those seats, whereas MF has 23.

4. So, Membership First controls who the Hollywood board elects, unless 8 MF-ers break ranks. If that doesn’t happen (and it’s not likely), then MF will fill the TBD vacancy. Whom will they select? Almost certainly Alan Rosenberg, whom they would elevate from national board alternate (which is the office he won on Thursday) to full national board member from the Hollywood division.

5. Thus, although Rosenberg ’s presidency was so discredited in many members’ eyes that he couldn’t even win a board seat, he’s likely to end up with one anyway. This would take place at the next Hollywood board meeting, which is scheduled for October 5.

6. Elevating Rosenberg leaves his alternate seat vacant. So, MF would then vote to appoint its longtime leader David Joliffe as a national alternate (and Hollywood board member). That effectively appoints him to the national board, because one or more of MF celebrity board members (which include Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Elliott Gould and Ed Asner) will usually be absent from national board meetings.

7. MF will also presumably vote to appoint newly reelected board member Anne-Marie Johnson as 1st VP (the VP office from Hollywood) and thus as Divisional chair, to the extent that she doesn’t automatically continue in these offices (note that the updated SAG website still lists her as 1st VP and divisional rules say that the 1st VP is also the chair). This is possible because Johnson ran for two seats in this election—president, but also, as a backup, national board member. She won the latter.

8. As a result, MF will have skilled leadership as voting members in the Hollywood board room, namely, all four of its core leaders: Johnson, Rosenberg, Jolliffe and, continuing on the national and Hollywood boards, Kent McCord.

9. In contrast, Unite for Strength will have none of its leaders as voting members in the Hollywood boardroom: Ned Vaughn and Assaf Cohen didn’t win seats on the Hollywood or national boards, and Ken Howard and Amy Aquino, as national officers, are non-voting, ex officio members of the Hollywood board, as well as the NY and RBD (Regional Branch Division) boards. One wonders whether Howard and/or Aquino will be able to find time to attend every Hollywood board meeting. In any case, their formal roles would be very circumscribed; under the Constitution and By-Laws, they’re not even allowed to make motions or “initiate any other parliamentary procedures.”

10. Note also that the Hollywood board gets to appoint the Hollywood members of the TV/theatrical contract negotiating committee, if there is one, and that Hollywood has a majority on that committee. That suggests that negotiation will once again have to be handled by a task force appointed by the whole board, not by a committee appointed on a Division by Division basis. (It’s unclear to me whether the task force appointed earlier this year is still in existence.) Unless, that is, SAG and AFTRA are able to reestablish joint bargaining under the Phase 1 agreement.

11. Remember too that it was the Hollywood board that passed a resolution expressing the goal that SAG “acquire actors of AFTRA,” i.e. in some mystical fashion divesting AFTRA of its actors and absorbing all of them in SAG. Anne-Marie Johnson ran for and won a seat on the AFTRA board—despite saying it was distasteful to run—giving her an internal platform for this goal as well. We can expect MF to seek to terminate the anti-disparagement agreement so that the Hollywood board will be free to express its anti-AFTRA views without financial repercussion to SAG.

Bottom line: SAG’s byzantine governance structure and geographical divisiveness will once again facilitate disunity. Among other things, the question becomes, will SAG and AFTRA be able to reestablish Phase 1 joint bargaining? The divided governance certainly makes it harder.

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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.

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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.

September 11, 2009

SAG P & H Plans

Fellow SAG Members,

You’ve just received the latest edition of TAKE 2, the newsletter of SAG’s Pension and Health Plans, and like me, you were probably troubled by what you read:

“According to federal guidelines established by the Pension Protection Act of 2006, the [Pension] Plan is in the orange zone and considered to be seriously endangered.”

“So far this year, contributions generated from employment-based earnings are down 10%. This represents the largest drop in plan history and does not account for the full impact of the decrease in SAG-covered television pilots, which has yet to be realized.”

HEALTH INSURANCE PREMIUMS GOING UP
You also read that starting January 1st, our Health Insurance premiums are going up: 66% higher for Plan One, 50% higher for Plan Two, and 92% higher for Plan Two “age & service” coverage. And for the first time in the Plan’s history, all Senior Performers will now have to pay monthly premiums.

PENSION ACCRUAL RATE COMING DOWN
The funding decline of our Pension Plan means that corrective action must be taken, or “the Pension Plan could enter the red zone, (the most critical status under the PPA) and risk a funding deficiency under federal law, which would require even stronger action to correct.” As a result, effective Jan. 1, 2010, the pension accrual rate will be lowered from 3.5% to 2.0%, a drop of 42%.

This is very serious news, but it’s equally important to point out that these reductions do not apply to any pension you are currently receiving, or any benefits you have already accrued. By taking action now, the Plans will preserve their ability to pay those promised benefits.

However, as the Plan Trustees noted in their newsletter, the outlook for future benefits is less secure.

Investment losses hurt benefit plans across the country last year, including SAG’s – even though the Guild’s plans fared better than most in that regard. But earnings-based contributions have suffered their worst drop ever, and this does not reflect the future effects of SAG covering only 10% of the 2009 TV pilots. The cost of the decision last year to fight with AFTRA rather than partner with them on our biggest contract negotiation has already been deeply felt, but it hasn’t been fully realized yet.

YOUR VOTE WILL DECIDE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
I support my family as an actor and I couldn’t do it without solid health insurance and the expectation of a secure pension when I retire. Many of you are in the same boat… but even if you’re not, we all understand just how crucial those benefits are.

Will we go back to fighting with AFTRA and further endanger our benefit plans? Or will we unite with AFTRA to increase our bargaining power and strengthen the security of our health and pension benefits? This election will determine our course.

It’s clearer than ever that we cannot go back to the go-it-alone approach. That’s why I’m asking you to vote for Ken Howard, Amy Aquino and me, along with all the other UFS board candidates. And please spread this message to every SAG member you know. It has never been more important to make sure that all your friends and colleagues vote.

Respectfully,

Ned Vaughn

For more information about our candidates and to see all the UFS videos, please visit http://www.UniteforStrength.com

**UNITE FOR STRENGTH VOTING GUIDE**

President – KEN HOWARD
Secretary-Treasurer – AMY AQUINO

Board of Directors – Please vote for ALL 33 board candidates below. DO NOT vote for more than 33 board candidates or your ballot will not be counted.

1 – Michelle Allsopp
6 – Patrick Fabian
9 – Jason George
10 – Dawnn Lewis
11 – Woody Schultz
12 – Michael O’Keefe
14 – Clark Gregg
19 – David Lawrence
20 – Amir Talai
21 – Doug Savant
22 – Dule Hill
23 – Clyde Kusatsu
25 – Tim DeKay
28 – Assaf Cohen
34 – Scotty Caldwell
35 – D.W. Moffett
39 – Mandy Steckelberg
40 – Richard Speight, Jr.
43 – Jenny O’Hara
52 – Gabrielle Carteris
55 – Hill Harper
57 – Bill Smitrovich
58 – Bob Bergen
59 – Ned Vaughn
60 – Nancy Travis
62 – Gregory Itzin
64 – Ellen Crawford
67 – Stacey Travis
73 – Christian Clemenson
74 – Conrad Palmisano
75 – Richard Fancy
81 – Marcia Wallace
82 – John Carroll Lynch

August 29, 2009

SAG Canadates – Hollywood

Dear SAG Colleague,
The SAG elections are now upon us, and below are my endorsements for President, Secretary-Treasurer, and fellow SAG colleagues who are running in Hollywood. After years of infighting and the union’s rapid and reckless deterioration into ineffectiveness, with elected leaders suing their own union, disparaging our sister union AFTRA, and the inability (or unwillingness) to negotiate important industry contracts and costing us millions of dollars, we now have the ability to vote people in who will work for ALL OF US, for solidarity and strength, now and in the immediate future.

I am urging you to vote for these fine people who will be devoting massive amounts of their time, away from their individual careers, to work for us and to fight for us, for our protections and our place in this industry. The people listed below, that I endorse 100%, believe in The Screen Actors Guild and everything the union stands for. Feel free to pass this list to your Hollywood friends who are voting this election.

Use this list below as you check your choices on the Hollywood ballot. Please be invovled. Please VOTE!

Here’s to a brighter SAG future, and in solidarity,
Mark Redfield

FOR PRESIDENT
KEN HOWARD

FOR SECRETARY-TREASURER
AMY AQUINO

IN HOLLYWOOD (remember, you may vote for no more than 33 candidates–please consider these candidates listed below)
01. Michelle Allsopp
06. Patrick Fabian
09. Jason George
10. Dawnn Lewis
11. Woody Schultz
12. Michael O’Keefe
19. David H. Lawrence XVII
20. Amir Talai
21. Doug Savant
22. Dule Hill
23. Clyde Kusatsu
25. Tim DeKay
28. Assaf Cohen
34. L. Scott Caldwell
35. D.W. Moffett
39. Mandy Steckelberg
40. Richard Peight, Jr.
43. Jenny O’Hara
52. Gabrielle Carteris
55. Hill Harper
57. Bill Smitrovich
58. Bob Bergen
59. Ned Vaughn
60. Nancy Travis
62. Gregory Itzin
64. Ellen Crawford
67. Stacey Travis
73. Christian Clemenson
74. Conrad E. Palmisano
75. Richard Fancy
81. Marcia Wallace
82. John Carroll Lynch

July 29, 2009

Unite for Strength Members

Last year’s SAG election was important, but the upcoming SAG election means everything to your future as a professional performer. Not only will seats on the Hollywood and National Boards be at stake, but members will also elect SAG’s next President and Secretary-Treasurer. Most important, this election will decide a fundamental question for the future: will SAG go it alone – costing us more jurisdiction and further weakening us at the bargaining table – or will we unite for strength?

Fighting with other unions has gotten SAG nowhere and cost Guild members dearly. Ken Howard, Amy Aquino, and all the UFS board candidates understand that professional performers must have the smartest, strongest union representation possible – and the only way to get it is by working in cooperation with our labor partners. That’s what Unite for Strength is all about.

This national election will be hotly contested and we must get our message to the Guild’s 120,000 members. We can’t do that without your financial support. We need your donations to win.

Come join UFS for a night of celebration, food, drink, education, and good old-fashioned fundraising THIS Thursday, July 30th at 7:30pm.

It’s a great opportunity to meet those who have been working so hard for you since our first election victory, as well as the new candidates on our 2009 slate. We’ll be laughing, singing, dancing, and talking about the issues – and raising money to ensure that a powerful, united front representing all professional performers is the future for the Screen Actors Guild.

Please call a few friends and RSVP by sending an email to ufsparty@gmail.com right away!
(Location will be provided upon receipt of RSVP)
And if you can’t make it, please make a donation through our website:
http://www.UniteforStrength.com

UFS National Board Members –
Adam Arkin, Amy Brenneman, Ken Howard, Pamela Reed, Kate Walsh

UFS 2009 Candidates –
President: Ken Howard
Secretary-Treasurer: Amy Aquino

National/Hollywood Board –
Michelle Allsopp, Bob Bergen, Scotty Caldwell, Gabrielle Carteris, Christian Clemenson, Assaf Cohen, Ellen Crawford, Tim DeKay, Patrick Fabian, Richard Fancy, Jason George, Clark Gregg, Hill Harper, Dule Hill, Gregory Itzin, Clyde Kusatsu, David Lawrence, Dawnn Lewis, John Carroll Lynch, D.W. Moffett, Jenny O’Hara, Michael O’Keefe, Conrad Palmisano, Doug Savant, Woody Schultz, Bill Smitrovich, Richard Speight, Mandy Steckelberg, Amir Talai, Nancy Travis, Stacey Travis, Ned Vaughn, Marcia Wallace

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.

June 16, 2009

SAG Watchdog report

Joosten Time, Another in the Watchdog (Back to Work Series.) “They’re ready for their Tuna Sandwiches, Mr. DeMille!” .: . Date: Tuesday 6/16/2009 Well the promise has materialized, ah, well some of it anyway, SAG actors get back to work UNDER UNION CONTRACTS on the Internet. You all remember, how Tom Hanks and his “go-along-to-get-along” pals told rank and file actors how this was a smart contract. Oh, and union-hating award winning actress Kathy Joosten telling you–on that SAG Vote “Yes” video–that “non union did not mean no pay.” Well maybe, but what she didn’t tell you was that a SAG union project for new media did. (Click to see her video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRau1r-SZb4 Yes, Hollywood is back to work under the new contract pushed by the compliant USAN New York and branches leadership, along with Ned “Uncle Joe” Vaughn and his UFS party. Well, Ned said, “This contract would help actors feed their familes.” I’m really not sure how that will happen in this case, ah, unless they get to take home some of Kathy Joosten’s scraps. “They’re ready for their Tuna sandwiches, Mr. DeMille!” — Nurses Who Kill Internet, SAG Posted: 6/15/2009 ________________________________________ Union Status SAG Rate SAG New Media Contract, credit-meals-and-opportunity to work with an award winning team Submissions Due By 6/19/2009 Shoot/Performance Dates 6/26/2009, 6/27/2009, 7/3/2009, 7/6/2009 Shoot/Performance Location TBA Los Angeles Shoot/Performance Dates Note All background roles will be featured and receive close-ups. Submission Due By Note All actors must be SAG Synopsis Two nurses moonlight as assassins. In each episode, deliciously dark comedy unfolds, as this pair of mismatched hit-women attempt to right the wrongs done to their clients. Project Notes “Nurses Who Kill…” was created by multiple award-winning writer and actress Ann Noble, and actress/producer Chane’t Johnson (Without a Trace, Girlfriends, LAX, ER ) who’ll also star. Cast also includes Emmy-winning actress, Kathy Joosten(West Wing) and Tony-nominated triple-threat, Valarie Pettiford (Fosse, Stomp the Yard, Half and Half). The series will be directed by Katy Garretson (Frasier, Girlfriends, and George Lopez). Audition Note Casting directly from online submissions and possible phone interview. Role submit 3 MORE ONLOOKERS / SAG / “Sunday, June 27th” / Background / Male or Female / All Ethnicities / 25-80 3 Onlookers for a news cast, different faces from June 26th Wardrobe: Talent to bring 3 choices of outfits Rate: Credit-meals and the opportunity to work with an award-winning team Role Added 6/15/2009 11:48:00 AM Other Roles Fit-For-Me submit 15 HIGH SOCIETY PARTY WOMEN / SAG / “Monday, July 6th” / Background / Female / All Ethnicities / 45-80 Distinguished, wealthy, high society socialites. Orange County WASPs at a Republican tea party. People who look perfect will get close-ups. Wardrobe: Pastels, no yellow, no white. Talent to bring 3 choices of outfits. Rate: Credit-meals and the opportunity to work with an award-winning team Role Added 6/15/2009 12:24:00 PM submit DOCTOR / SAG / “Friday, July 3rd” / Background / Male or Female / All Ethnicities / 40-60 Rate: Credit-meals and the opportunity to work with an award-winning team Role Added 6/15/2009 12:20:00 PM submit HOSPITAL PATIENT / SAG / “Friday, July 3rd” / Background / Male or Female / All Ethnicities / 25-80 Wardrobe: Hospital Gown Rate: Credit-meals and the opportunity to work with an award-winning team Role Added 6/15/2009 12:18:00 PM submit 3 ONLOOKERS / SAG / “Friday, June 26th” / Background / Male or Female / All Ethnicities / 25-80 3 Onlookers during a news cast Wardrobe: Talent to bring 3 choices Rate: Credit-meals and the opportunity to work with an award-winning team Role Added 6/15/2009 10:40:00 AM Other Current Roles submit 9 HIGH SOCIETY PARTY MEN / SAG / “Monday, July 6th” / Background / Male / All Ethnicities / 45-80 Distinguished, wealthy, high society socialites. Orange County WASPs at a Republican tea party. People who look perfect will get close-ups. Wardrobe: Talent to bring 3 choices of outfits – colorful outfits preferred, no yellow, no white. Rate: Credit-meals and the opportunity to work with an award-winning team Role Added 6/15/2009 12:25:00 PM submit WAITER 2 / SAG / “Monday, July 6th” / Background / Male / All Ethnicities / 35-45 The perfect, seasoned waiter. He’s almost a butler. There will be close-ups on him. Rate: Credit-meals and the opportunity to work with an award-winning team Role Added 6/15/2009 12:22:00 PM submit CAMERA GUY / SAG / “Friday, July 3rd” / Background / Male / All Ethnicities / 30-39 Wardrobe: Talent to bring 3 choices of outfits Rate: Credit-meals and the opportunity to work with an award-winning team Role Added 6/15/2009 12:21:00 PM — And don’t talk to me about low budget SAG films, or student films. SAG Low budget films have a minimum guarantee, and more pay if the project succeeds. (The new media provision has a stipulation that SAG will not interfere.) and these are definitely not neophytes, just getting started. If this project succeeds, Joosten and her friends will be amply rewarded. As to those SAG members that worked for food, maybe they will send them napkins in lieu of residuals. Stay tuned, this is just the beginning under the current “let’s just keep working” SAG leadership mentality. The vote “Yes” crowd kept telling us about hard times. Well, now they’ve got actors working for Depression wages under a SAG contract, “Will work for food.” Hmmm…and here I thought that in California, employers at least had to pay minimum wage. I guess not as long as it’s a SAG Union Contract with a “Covered” performer. Hey, but you know that it’s gonna’ be a great artistic triumph if every background actor is going to get a close-up. A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief

June 6, 2009

Deadline for voting

Filed under: Entertainment — showbizreporting @ 6:15 pm
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Ned Vaughn, Unite for Strength June 4, 2009, 09:44 PM ET THR: What has been the hardest thing for you personally in getting through the last year? Ned Vaughn: Dealing with repeated accusations that I and the others who are now in the majority in the leadership of the guild are attempting to somehow weaken the union. Or that we don’t have the best interests of actors at heart. Because that’s obviously ridiculous. We all make our livings as actors. But without a doubt the hardest part has been time away from my family. I’ve been active in this at a very high level, and it’s required lots of my time. When I saw that Phase I relationship between SAG and AFTRA split apart in this last negotiation, I felt like we had reached a moment when this was actually going to start costing me money. It was going to start hindering the ability for middle class actors to make the best living possible. So I felt compelled to get in and help really try to make a change. THR: How do you feel then about the email that was just sent out from SAG’s leadership? One of the objections that MembershipFirst had was the accusation that they were somehow trying to destroy the union? Is there some hypocrisy there? Vaughn: I think there was one very objectionable sentence in that email, which said some members were trying to bring the union down. That was excessive language and it shouldn’t have been part of that email. THR: Did you help write the e-mail? Vaughn: No, I did not write that email. I believe that it was staff-generated, and probably there were many hands in it. All of the messages in this campaign, of which there have been many and will be more, absolutely have member hands on them, too. Staff will provide a structural draft, and then there’s a big group of members representing the majority point of view that feed into that and create what goes out. I do think that that language was excessive. But I also think that it was born out of frustrations on two fronts: that there have been repeated misrepresentations of some of the facts concerning this deal from the opposition side. And also, that the guild has taken on really significant damage in the area where so many of us make our livings, notably our television jurisdiction. Ninety% of the pilots going to AFTRA this year is a real sign of that. And so I think while that language was inappropriate, it was probably trying to express that there are concerns that the viability of the guild is at stake if we don’t stop the damage that has accrued during this time without a contract. THR: I guess the distinction would be attributing motivation to the other side. Because doing it inadvertently through policy decisions is different than actually wanting to bring the guild down. Vaughn: Exactly right. There’s a history here. As you know, Alan Rosenberg himself has said some very harsh things about those in the majority through guild publications. He’s accused us directly of trying to weaken the union. And assessing the motives of our political opponents within the guild–of any member within the guild–is really not a place we should be going. So that was a regrettable part of that email. THR: Have you lost friends or colleagues over this? Vaughn: I have to say no. I certainly have friends and colleagues who disagree. My friends and colleagues who I disagree with on these issues understand that any actions that I’ve taken have been in the interest of helping actors. They know that that’s where I’m coming from. And they disagree and sometimes we’ll even get into heated arguments, but I haven’t had any friendships irrevocably damaged. THR: How has your original agenda when you first helped form the Unite for Strength party most changed? Vaughn: The debut of Unite For Strength was July 24 last year. Our defining goal is absolutely still to unite all professional performers on one side of the bargaining table. We are all about maximizing the bargaining power of professional performers. THR: Do you feel like this contract debate, and the AFTRA contract debate, have impacted your focus or distracted you at all? Vaughn: There is no doubt that we have had to spend far more time than I had hoped that we would dealing with this contract. And certainly it was never an agenda of Unite for Strength, for example, to support the replacement of (former SAG executive director) Doug Allen. That’s not something that we campaigned on, it’s not something that we set out to do. But as the contract negotiations remained stalled, and it became more and more apparent that there wasn’t a workable strategy to resolve them, it’s taken a lot of our focus. One of the things that I am most pleased about with this contract that the members are going to be voting on, is the fact that we were able to realign our expiration date so that we can renegotiate in 2011 jointly with AFTRA and alongside the other entertainment unions. And that comes back to our core mission. THR: Part of the rationale for accepting the current deal is that in 2011 the various guilds can combine their leverage. There’s not a lot of precedent for that kind of teamwork, though, especially with the DGA. Are you worried that you’re going to fight the same lone fight then? Vaughn: Sure, it’s a possibility, but I would say two things. First of all, the leadership that has been in charge of the Screen Actors Guild has not fostered greater unity among the unions. It changes the game if the leadership of SAG has that as one of its top priorities. The second point is this: Let’s assume that we could not get full cooperation among all of the unions. Even in that context, so long as AFTRA and SAG regain the kind of tight bond that they had for the 25 years preceding this negotiation, we are in a vastly better position to deal with taking care of actors’ needs by presenting a united front for actors. That didn’t happen this last time, and that weakened our leverage. THR: Do you honestly believe that an organization of 120,000 or so members, that has a sister union with tens of thousands of overlapping members, will ever come to any real consensus? And if not, does the future have two unions in it, two SAGs? Vaughn: Oh, boy. Listen, you cannot get any group of 120,000 people to completely agree on anything. But I absolutely believe that there is a massive majority of people who do the work that this guild covers who very deeply want and need for there to be only one union. If we have learned nothing else from the last year, it is that a two-union solution does not work. Look, I and others like me who are journeymen are going to start having a much harder time in years to come qualifying for our health insurance and our pension credits if the unions remain separate and our benefits contributions are split. And talk of merger is in the air. People understand that even short of merger that SAG and AFTRA must cooperate. We cannot negotiate separately. THR: If the contract is voted down, what justification could you have for blocking a strike authorization vote at that point? Vaughn: I don’t think there’s any justification. I think that that’s where things have to go. And more to the point, I think that honestly the reality is that we’re probably looking at a strike. Now, whether or not a strike authorization could be obtained is another important question that we need to ask, because the required 75% is a very high number, and we’ve had a very contentious period both in the leadership and in the membership. But I agree that a strike authorization would be the next logical step, and I think, frankly, if it were obtained it would lead to a strike. THR: Is it disingenuous at all to use the full force of SAG, its official membership lists and leadership, to promote passage of the contract when 47% of the national board voted against it? Vaughn: Not at all. Every voter in this referendum got a full statement of the opposition’s point of view, they got a rebuttal to the majority’s point of view, and certainly, as we can see, the minority has had no problem getting their message seen and heard by many, many SAG members. There is a point at which you have constitutional prescriptions for how to deal with the majority opinion and the minority opinion, and those are being followed. THR: What was the last performance or acting job that you were hired and paid for? Vaughn: On camera, it was an episode of “Heroes.” And I also do voiceover work for a variety of people. THR: Have you acted in any original content for the Web? Vaughn: Never. Ned Vaughn, Unite for StrengthJune 4, 2009, 09:44 PM ET THR: What has been the hardest thing for you personally in getting through the last year? Ned Vaughn: Dealing with repeated accusations that I and the others who are now in the majority in the leadership of the guild are attempting to somehow weaken the union. Or that we don’t have the best interests of actors at heart. Because that’s obviously ridiculous. We all make our livings as actors. But without a doubt the hardest part has been time away from my family. I’ve been active in this at a very high level, and it’s required lots of my time. When I saw that Phase I relationship between SAG and AFTRA split apart in this last negotiation, I felt like we had reached a moment when this was actually going to start costing me money. It was going to start hindering the ability for middle class actors to make the best living possible. So I felt compelled to get in and help really try to make a change. THR: How do you feel then about the email that was just sent out from SAG’s leadership? One of the objections that MembershipFirst had was the accusation that they were somehow trying to destroy the union? Is there some hypocrisy there? Vaughn: I think there was one very objectionable sentence in that email, which said some members were trying to bring the union down. That was excessive language and it shouldn’t have been part of that email. THR: Did you help write the e-mail? Vaughn: No, I did not write that email. I believe that it was staff-generated, and probably there were many hands in it. All of the messages in this campaign, of which there have been many and will be more, absolutely have member hands on them, too. Staff will provide a structural draft, and then there’s a big group of members representing the majority point of view that feed into that and create what goes out. I do think that that language was excessive. But I also think that it was born out of frustrations on two fronts: that there have been repeated misrepresentations of some of the facts concerning this deal from the opposition side. And also, that the guild has taken on really significant damage in the area where so many of us make our livings, notably our television jurisdiction. Ninety% of the pilots going to AFTRA this year is a real sign of that. And so I think while that language was inappropriate, it was probably trying to express that there are concerns that the viability of the guild is at stake if we don’t stop the damage that has accrued during this time without a contract. THR: I guess the distinction would be attributing motivation to the other side. Because doing it inadvertently through policy decisions is different than actually wanting to bring the guild down. Vaughn: Exactly right. There’s a history here. As you know, Alan Rosenberg himself has said some very harsh things about those in the majority through guild publications. He’s accused us directly of trying to weaken the union. And assessing the motives of our political opponents within the guild–of any member within the guild–is really not a place we should be going. So that was a regrettable part of that email. THR: Have you lost friends or colleagues over this? Vaughn: I have to say no. I certainly have friends and colleagues who disagree. My friends and colleagues who I disagree with on these issues understand that any actions that I’ve taken have been in the interest of helping actors. They know that that’s where I’m coming from. And they disagree and sometimes we’ll even get into heated arguments, but I haven’t had any friendships irrevocably damaged. THR: How has your original agenda when you first helped form the Unite for Strength party most changed? Vaughn: The debut of Unite For Strength was July 24 last year. Our defining goal is absolutely still to unite all professional performers on one side of the bargaining table. We are all about maximizing the bargaining power of professional performers. THR: Do you feel like this contract debate, and the AFTRA contract debate, have impacted your focus or distracted you at all? Vaughn: There is no doubt that we have had to spend far more time than I had hoped that we would dealing with this contract. And certainly it was never an agenda of Unite for Strength, for example, to support the replacement of (former SAG executive director) Doug Allen. That’s not something that we campaigned on, it’s not something that we set out to do. But as the contract negotiations remained stalled, and it became more and more apparent that there wasn’t a workable strategy to resolve them, it’s taken a lot of our focus. One of the things that I am most pleased about with this contract that the members are going to be voting on, is the fact that we were able to realign our expiration date so that we can renegotiate in 2011 jointly with AFTRA and alongside the other entertainment unions. And that comes back to our core mission. THR: Part of the rationale for accepting the current deal is that in 2011 the various guilds can combine their leverage. There’s not a lot of precedent for that kind of teamwork, though, especially with the DGA. Are you worried that you’re going to fight the same lone fight then? Vaughn: Sure, it’s a possibility, but I would say two things. First of all, the leadership that has been in charge of the Screen Actors Guild has not fostered greater unity among the unions. It changes the game if the leadership of SAG has that as one of its top priorities. The second point is this: Let’s assume that we could not get full cooperation among all of the unions. Even in that context, so long as AFTRA and SAG regain the kind of tight bond that they had for the 25 years preceding this negotiation, we are in a vastly better position to deal with taking care of actors’ needs by presenting a united front for actors. That didn’t happen this last time, and that weakened our leverage. THR: Do you honestly believe that an organization of 120,000 or so members, that has a sister union with tens of thousands of overlapping members, will ever come to any real consensus? And if not, does the future have two unions in it, two SAGs? Vaughn: Oh, boy. Listen, you cannot get any group of 120,000 people to completely agree on anything. But I absolutely believe that there is a massive majority of people who do the work that this guild covers who very deeply want and need for there to be only one union. If we have learned nothing else from the last year, it is that a two-union solution does not work. Look, I and others like me who are journeymen are going to start having a much harder time in years to come qualifying for our health insurance and our pension credits if the unions remain separate and our benefits contributions are split. And talk of merger is in the air. People understand that even short of merger that SAG and AFTRA must cooperate. We cannot negotiate separately. THR: If the contract is voted down, what justification could you have for blocking a strike authorization vote at that point? Vaughn: I don’t think there’s any justification. I think that that’s where things have to go. And more to the point, I think that honestly the reality is that we’re probably looking at a strike. Now, whether or not a strike authorization could be obtained is another important question that we need to ask, because the required 75% is a very high number, and we’ve had a very contentious period both in the leadership and in the membership. But I agree that a strike authorization would be the next logical step, and I think, frankly, if it were obtained it would lead to a strike. THR: Is it disingenuous at all to use the full force of SAG, its official membership lists and leadership, to promote passage of the contract when 47% of the national board voted against it? Vaughn: Not at all. Every voter in this referendum got a full statement of the opposition’s point of view, they got a rebuttal to the majority’s point of view, and certainly, as we can see, the minority has had no problem getting their message seen and heard by many, many SAG members. There is a point at which you have constitutional prescriptions for how to deal with the majority opinion and the minority opinion, and those are being followed. THR: What was the last performance or acting job that you were hired and paid for? Vaughn: On camera, it was an episode of “Heroes.” And I also do voiceover work for a variety of people. THR: Have you acted in any original content for the Web? Vaughn: Never.

June 3, 2009

Familiar Faces on Youtube

Here are some videos where the actors are in support or against the new contract.

Ned Vaughn’s video

Adam Arkin, Amy Brenneman, Ken Howard, Sam Freed, Jack Coleman, Kate Walsh, Stephen Collins, Ed Begley, Jr., and 26 other SAG members declaring their support for “Yes” on the TV/Theatrical contract.

Ed Harris video

SAG – AFRTRA RATIFY AGREEMENT

 

SAG-AFTRA Ratify Advertising Agreement; SAG Townhall Features Fireworks (May 22, 2009)

 

SAG and AFTRA announced yesterday that their combined paid-up membership, about 132,000 members, overwhelmingly ratified the contracts between the unions and the advertising industry. The result was expected, as there was no organized opposition. About 28% returned their ballots, about typical. Of those voting, about 94% voted yes. The deals expire March 31, 2012.

The news from the TV/theatrical side is nowhere near as placid. The ballots went out a few days ago—they’re due back June 9—and SAG’s conducting a series of town hall meetings across the country. The first was last night in Hollywood, and the fur flew. About 600 people attended according to a staff count; although the crowd was reportedly 70% composed of hardline Membership First partisans, they didn’t manage to fill the room. That’s a bit surprising. I’d expected an overflow crowd, given their (apparent?) strength in Hollywood.

What they slightly lacked in numbers, they made up in volume and conviction, according to sources inside the room. Fellow MF-ers like SAG President Alan Rosenberg were applauded for their statements against ratification, while pro-contract voices such as SAG interim National Executive Director David White were booed. The approximately three-hour confab kicked off with statements from the dais, and was mostly taken up by member questions and comments, which were described as overwhelmingly anti-ratification.

That dais, by the way, included SAG Secretary/Treasurer Connie Stevens, chief negotiator John McGuire, White, SAG 1st VP Anne-Marie Johnson (who chaired the meeting), Unite for Strength leader Ned Vaughn, UFS-er Stacey Travis, Deputy NED Ray Rodriguez, and Rosenberg. General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland responded to questions from time to time.

According to Vaughn, Rosenberg was asked at the meeting what he proposed the union do if it voted down the deal. Rosenberg apparently replied that the union should get a strike authorization and then, if necessary, strike. How he expects to conjure up the necessary 75% vote for a strike authorization is unclear. In contrast to that high hurdle, it only takes 50% + 1 (a simple majority) to ratify the deal.

More colorful speakers at the meeting were Ed Asner and Seymour Cassel. Asner compared the contract’s effect on actors to “taking the Jews out and shooting them,” leading one audience member to comment that he hadn’t expected Holocaust metaphors at a SAG meeting. Well, why not? SAG politics seem to know no bounds.

Cassel, for his part, spotted former SAG president Melissa Gilbert, a moderate, and, standing at the mic, referred to her dismissively. Cassel later responded to one of David White’s comments by saying “bullshit.” This was understandably too much for Johnson, as chair of the meeting, and she ordered Cassel to leave. Out in the hallway, Cassel told me that “I tend to speak my mind, perhaps too candidly.” That certainly seems true.

Another notable out in the hall was Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura on the original Star Trek. We chatted briefly about the Star Trek movie, not SAG politics, let alone Trekian essays about SAG politics. There was also a Jack Nicholson lookalike, wearing a snappy suit, white shoes, and tinted eyeglasses. Maybe it was Jack Nicholson, but somehow I wouldn’t expect to see him aimlessly wandering the halls at a SAG meeting and using the hotel ATM.

David White chatted for a bit after the meeting, and explained the contrast between his reaction to the studios’ February offer (it “sucks,” he said at the time) and the current one (“a good deal with solid gains,” he told me yesterday, and, in the context of the economy and the dragged out negotiating process, even a “fantastic” one). The key difference is the contract expiration date, which in the current deal is synchronized with the WGA, AFTRA and DGA (mid-2011). In the February deal, it wasn’t, and the significance is that synchronicity allows at least some of the unions to make common cause and present a united front when the contract is up.

White previously predicted the deal would pass, so this time I asked whether he thought it would pass in Hollywood. (That’s not necessary for passage, but it would give some signal of a reduction in divisiveness within the union.) He predicted it would, citing the strong messages of support he was receiving from Hollywood members (though not at the meeting), but noting judiciously that “members will vote their conscience.”

Ned Vaughn also told me the deal would pass, both in Hollywood and nationally. He pointed to the importance of consolidating gains and negotiating in solidarity with other unions, especially AFTRA, in 2011. I asked if he thought SAG and AFTRA would be merged by 2011, and he replied that he “would love it if they were.”

A contrasting post-meeting voice was MF stalwart and SAG board member Clancy Brown, who explained his opposition to the deal in more measured terms than Asner and Cassel had used. He argued that “there’s a better deal out there to be had,” and cited “the paltry Internet move over residual” and the “larcenous” force majeure settlement as reasons.

The day before, I spoke with 2nd VP Sam Freed, who is president of the New York board, and separately with board member Mike Pniewski of Atlanta, both supporters of ratification. The latter predicted the deal will pass, and commented that the guild “got the best deal we can.” He cited a variety of positive aspects of the deal, and underlined the need for “stability in the marketplace” for labor.

Freed pointed to the estimated $105 million value of the deal, and said it addresses “the plight of the middle class actor.” He emphasized that the level of concern MF expresses over new media was not supported by current figures: of $1.3 billion in SAG earnings in 2008, Freed told me only 0.05% came from new media. (That’s one-twentieth of one percent, not 5%.) Alluding to the opposition, he quipped “There’s a guy who would be complaining if it was raining vegetable soup and he only had a fork in his hand.”

In other union news, Variety reports that 85 year-old actor Theodore Bikel “has been re-elected to an 11th two-year term as president of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America.” The 4-A’s, as it’s known, is in turn a unit of the AFL-CIO. Its affiliates are AFTRA, SAG, Actors’ Equity and several smaller performers unions: American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA), and the Guild of Italian American Actors. AFTRA has a direct charter with the AFL-CIO, awarded last year. The other unions are chartered with the 4-A’s, as far as I know, and derive their AFL-CIO affiliation that way (as did AFTRA prior to 2008).

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