Showbizreporting's Blog

August 20, 2009

Meet NY SAG Candidates

Dear USAN Friends & Supporters,

We need your help in this critical election season. Please join us
this coming Monday & bring your SAG friends–we would love to have you
all meet Ken Howard & Amy Aquino, candidates for National President
and Secretary-Treasurer and other NY SAG Candidates.

Please forward this to all of your lists
to help get the word out. We hope you can make it–and please bring a
friend… or five!

A PDF invitation may be found at this link:
http://www.unitedscreenactors.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/monday-invite.pdf

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Sam, Mike, & the USAN Team

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Date: Monday, August 24th

Time: 6:00PM-8:00PM

Place: 1199 SEIU, 310 W. 43rd St., between 8th & 9th

Bring your SAG card for admittance.

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August 5, 2009

Meeting for SAG Members

Attend a Caucus for an Update on Negotiations for the
2009 Television Animation and Basic Cable Animation Agreements
 Wednesday, August 12, 2009
 

Screen Actors Guild will host caucuses for the purpose of providing an update to members on negotiations for the 2009 Television Animation and Basic Cable Animation Agreements. The caucuses will be held in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago and San Francisco (please see the location and times below). Members of both animation negotiating committees and staff will be in attendance to provide the updates.
 
Please inform your fellow union members who work under these agreements about these important meetings.
Participation is limited only by fire department regulations.
 
Date
: Wednesday August 12, 2009

Locations:
Los Angeles: 2
identical Caucuses will be held – you may choose the time that is most convenient for you
First Caucus: 3–4 p.m.
PDT
Second Caucus: 6–7 p.m. PDT
James Cagney Board Room, ground floor
5757 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90036

Parking will be validated.

New York: 6-7 p.m. EDT (Videoconference with Los Angeles)
Leon Janney Board Room
360 Madison Ave, 12th floor
New York, NY 10017

RSVP to Courtney Doherty by email at cdoherty@sag.org <mailto:cdoherty@sag.org> or phone her at 212.827.1402
Miami: 6–7 p.m. EDT (Videoconference with Los Angeles)
7300 Kendall Drive, Ste. 620
Miami, FL 33156

RSVP to Megan Schwandt by email at megan.schwandt@sag.org <mailto:megan.schwandt@sag.org> or phone her at 305.670.7677 (ext. 7086)

Chicago: 5–6 p.m. CDT (Teleconference with Los Angeles)
1 East Erie St., Ste. 650
Chicago, IL 60611

RSVP to Kit Woods by email at kwoods@aftra.com <mailto:kwoods@aftra.com>  or phone her at 312.867.2547
 
San Francisco: 3–4 p.m. PDT (Teleconference with Los Angeles)
350 Sansome St., Ste. 900
San Francisco, CA 94104

RSVP to Jessica Bowker by email at jbowker@aftra.com <mailto:jbowker@aftra.com>  or phone her at 415.391.7510

Performers who work these agreements and who are not from these cities, yet happen to find themselves in these locations on the day of the caucuses, are invited to attend.
                                   
All paid-up SAG members who work under the Television Animation Agreement and the Basic Cable Animation Agreements should attend. Unfortunately, no guests allowed. Parents/guardians of young performers under 18 years-old are welcome. PLEASE BRING YOUR SAG MEMBERSHIP CARD FOR ADMITTANCE (paid thru October 31, 2009).

 


June 3, 2009

SAG Town Hall Meeting

Report on SAG NY Town Hall Meeting  (June 2,  2009)

 

SAG held a town hall meeting in NY last night to provide information re the TV/theatrical contract. It comes a bit late in the process, since the ballots are due back in the mail by next Tuesday, June 9. That means that the last day to reliably mail the ballots is probably Friday, or even Thursday, depending on your faith in the USPS and its vagaries. It also means that we have probably seen the end of the multitude of pro and con videos deployed on the SAG website, Membership First website, and YouTube.

Variety reports the turnout was slim—about 100 actors. SAGWatch infers, accurately I think, that most people have already voted and would have little reason to attend an informational meeting at this point.

The Variety report notes that attendees included SAG interim NED David White, President Alan Rosenberg, MF-ers 1st VP Anne-Marie Johnson and Scott Wilson, while supporters of the deal included Dan Lauria, Dylan Baker, SAG 2nd VP Sam Freed and board members Ralph Byers, Paul Christie, Rebecca Damon, Mike Hodge and Kevin Scullin.

A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, tells me that the MF folks (perhaps 15-20 people) were rowdy, booing people and apparently having their cell phones call en masse to disrupt the meeting.

However, the most interesting thing the source told me is that after the meeting the source spoke individually with Alan Rosenberg and asked whether he would attempt to have SAG reimburse him for his legal fees incurred in the lawsuit he, Johnson, Diane Ladd and Kent McCord files against SAG itself, a suit that has received denials in both the trial and appellate courts but nonetheless continues at both levels.

What’s interesting Rosenberg’s response, as reported by the source: “I don’t have any legal fees. It’s pro bono.” This is a problem—if true, it would explain in part why Rosenberg and his co-plaintiffs continue the futile and disruptive suit against SAG, which is burning up the union’s money at a that the guild has ben left with a $6 million deficit by MF. It’s also a small benefit, in that the plaintiffs will have no legal fees to extract from SAG if they were to recover control of the national board.

I emailed Rosenberg requesting comment on the source’s report and his assistant replied that his response was as follows: “This is a private matter and I don’t want to speak about it publicly”. “I have no further comment”.

 

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Subscribe to my blog (jhandel.com) for more about SAG, or digital media law generally. 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.

SAG’s Strange Voyage

 

SAG’s Strange Voyage  (May 19, 2009)

 

Where did the Screen Actors Guild go? After months of news—a near daily barrage covered diligently by various journalists and citizen-journalists, including this author—the guild fell off the radar screen. It was as though 5757 Wilshire, SAG’s national headquarters, somehow disappeared into the black hole that features so prominently in (spoiler alert) the latest “Star Trek” movie.

The quiet was deceptive however. Last week, SAG’s Hollywood board, controlled by the hardline Membership First faction, passed a resolution establishing a task force “to explore the acquisition of actors of AFTRA.” That appears to violate an agreement between the two unions that prohibits disparagement and raiding. The AFL-CIO is currently investigating, and monetary fines are a possibility. The irony is that the guild, controlled (albeit narrowly) by a moderate majority (composed of the Hollywood-based Unite for Strength faction coupled with Hollywood independents and New York and regional members), could find itself punished because of the actions of the autonomous Hollywood Board, controlled by the hardliners. Unfortunately, SAG’s governance structure ensures that there will always be too many starship captains on the bridge at once.

Meanwhile, within SAG itself another battle is looming, and here again the phasers will not be set on stun. Tensions between the hardliners and the moderates rival those between the Federation and the Romulans, and are about to break out again into open war—this time, as the guild membership prepares to vote on the TV/theatrical contract, which was recently approved by the SAG negotiating task force and the guild’s national board. Ballots are being sent to the membership at large today, May 19.

The stakes are high. Ratification will end an almost eleven month stalemate and restart studio theatrical production, which has been at a virtual standstill since the previous contract expired on June 30 last year. Rejection will plunge the union and the AMPTP—the alliance that represents studios and producers—back into stalemate, once again adrift in uncharted nebulas. Nonetheless, the hardliners have pledged to defeat the deal. Although they seem unlikely to succeed—a recent picnic/rally drew at most 70 attendees—they will drive the percentage of ratification down.

For almost two years, the hardliners have acted as though they come from another galaxy, or at least from Planet Claire, where (as the B-52’s explained) “no one has a head.” They started by trying to unilaterally reduce AFTRA’s power on the committee that for decades has jointly bargained the TV/theatrical contract. AFTRA ultimately responded by abandoning the joint arrangement, called Phase 1, and negotiating its own deal with the studios. The hardliners, who at the time controlled the guild, should have foreseen this result, and its effect, which was to reduce not AFTRA’s power but SAG’s.

Compounding this misstep, SAG delayed negotiating with the AMPTP until the contract was almost at the point of expiration. The studios’ response was unsurprising: they accelerated production, stockpiled films, then presented SAG with a take it or leave it offer whose terms mirrored that of the AFTRA deal and, in a key area, mirrored the terms of the Directors Guild and Writers Guild deals as well.

That key area, as even those on the dark side of the moon probably know, is new media. The deal terms in this area, from a union perspective, have gaps in jurisdiction and residuals structure. In this, the SAG hardliners make a significant point. But those gaps flow largely from the revenue-draining effect that new media is having on Hollywood. Technology is driving the perceived value of content towards zero, a matter I discuss in a just-published article in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law. That’s a pressure that both management and labor struggle to deal with.

Several additional factors helped make the search for better terms than three other unions a doomed mission to a dead planet. These were (1) the general uncertainty surrounding new media business models, (2) the economic fatigue suffered by actors and the rest of the industry in the wake of the 100 day writers strike, and (3) SAG’s lack of bargaining leverage, the latter a circumstance largely engineered by the hardliners themselves. (The recession, whose severity was at first unclear, only made things worse.) It’s as though the hardliners thought they could run at warp speed on cubic zirconia rather than dilithium crystals. Failure was not only an option, it was the predictable outcome.

What’s more, the stalemate itself led to further injury, of four varieties. First, it meant that SAG actors working in TV (a field in which production had continued) did so under the terms of the expired contract, meaning that they missed out on the 3.5% raise that AFTRA received on June 30 of last year by dint of its new deal. That’s amounted in aggregate to tens of millions of dollars foregone.

Second, it means that SAG will be behind AFTRA by 3.5% for at least the remainder of the new contract, because each union will continue to receive annual increases but SAG won’t get an extra bump to bring it to parity. Third, if SAG wants to catch up in the next round of negotiations, in 2011, it will need to trade off some other deal point that it might otherwise have gotten.

Fourth, the stalemate put into play the date that the new contract would expire, which is significant because it determines whether SAG’s deal will expire concurrently with those of the other guilds, allowing it to make common cause with them and increase the leverage of all four above-the-line unions (SAG, AFTRA, DGA and WGA) in the 2011 negotiations. SAG won that point, but at a cost of another two months of delay, from February (when the studios made an offer that would not expire concurrently) until April (when they made the offer that is now on the table). SAG was also forced to compromise pending claims for over $60 million dollars in force majeure payments—claims for actors’ wages lost due to the writers strike—but this may be less of a hit to the guild than it appears, since the contract language on the subject is at best ambiguous.

So where are we now? The ratification ballots are due back June 9, so we’ll know in less than a month whether the long stalemate is finally over. I anticipate ratification will be achieved, but with a percentage in the 60%-75% range, well below the over-90% that’s usually achieved when Hollywood union leadership recommends a contract. Meanwhile, the ballots for the SAG-AFTRA commercials contract with the advertising industry are out to the members, and are due back in two days, on May 21. That one will pass easily, as there’s no organized opposition.

Also of note: several months ago, SAG president Alan Rosenberg and three other hardliners (1st VP Anne-Marie Johnson and board members Diane Ladd and Kent McCord) sued their own union, seeking to enjoin negotiations and reverse personnel and procedural changes that they correctly anticipated would pave the way for a deal on terms the hardliners are pledged to oppose. Although their requests were denied by both the trial and appeals courts, the lawsuit nonetheless continues in both of those forums (Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC406900 and Second Appellate District 2d Civil No. B214056).

Why don’t the plaintiffs drop the debilitating two-track lawsuit, which flouts the concept of unity trumpeted by the hardliners when they were in power? Their motivation for proceeding in the face of near-certain defeat seems political at this point: dropping the suit would damage the hardliners’ campaign in this fall’s SAG elections, where the SAG presidency, and control of the board, are at stake. (Indeed, the political elbows are so sharp that several of the hardliners are also running in the now-in-progress AFTRA elections, seeking to undermine that union’s leverage from within.) Dismissing the suit would also doom the likely attempt the hardliners will make in the SAG boardroom to obtain reimbursement of their burgeoning legal fees. Meanwhile the guild is, of course, incurring significant fees of its own to defend itself and the forty-odd Board members also named as defendants.

Even assuming the TV/theatrical agreement is ratified, the guild has a long way to go before it’s back in our solar system. SAG’s been without a franchise agreement—the contract between the union and the talent agents—since 2002, and four other agreements are expired as well. The union is riven not only by factionalism but by economic and geographic divisions as well. New media issues will recur in 2011, which is just around the corner, and every three years thereafter, since technology continues to evolve faster than Hollywood can respond, let alone than union agreements can be renegotiated. The guild’s new leadership has made impressive progress in its few short months in office, but there are many light years yet to travel.

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Subscribe to my blog (jhandel.com) for more about SAG, or digital media law generally. 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.

SAG Sets Informational Meetings re TV/Theatrical Aggreement (MAY 8, 2009)

 

Friday, May 8, 2009

SAG Sets Informational Meetings re TV/theatrical Agreement

 

The TV/theatrical ballots will go out May 19 (about ten days from now) and are due back by mail on June 9. SAG has set members-only informational meetings on the proposed contract. The LA meeting is sure to have fireworks, since the leaders of the Membership First faction, based in LA, oppose the proposed deal.

Supporting the deal are SAG staff and the SAG National Board, including SAG’s moderate majority leadership, comprised of the LA-based Unite for Strength faction, LA independent board member Morgan Fairchild, and most or all of the NY and regional board members.

The deal can be ratified by a simple majority (i.e., 50% + 1) of those members voting. If ratified, the agreement would end an over 10-month stalemate.

The details of the meetings are in an email to members (see below).
 

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Email to SAG members:

Dear Screen Actors Guild member,

As you know, the Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors voted April 19, 2009, to approve and recommend to members, new, two-year successor agreements to the 2005 Producer-Screen Actors Guild Codified Basic Agreement and 2005 Screen Actors Guild Television Agreement.

Ballots will be mailed to all eligible members on May 19, 2009. Ballots must be mailed in the return envelope provided and received at the Everett, WA, post office box no later than 5:00 p.m. (PDT) June 9, 2009. Ballots received after this deadline, or at a location other than the post office box, will not be counted.

We are holding member informational meetings so that you can hear about the tentative agreement and ask questions. Member informational meetings are scheduled for Hollywood and New York as follows and will be announced for Branch locations next week.

HOLLYWOOD
Thursday, May 21, 2009
7 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Renaissance Hollywood Hotel
Hollywood Ballroom
1755 N. Highland Ave.
Hollywood, CA 90028

PARKING: No-host self parking at Hollywood & Highland – validation available at the Hollywood & Highland complex: $2 for 4 hours when you are validated in any shop, restaurant or theatre that is part of the mall. Guild not responsible for illegally parked vehicles.

NEW YORK
Monday, June 1, 2009
6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Directors Guild of America
110 West 57th Street (between 6th & 7th Aves.) New York, New York

Unfortunately, no guests will be allowed. Parents/guardians of younger performers under 18 years-old are welcome. PLEASE BRING YOUR SAG MEMBERSHIP CARD FOR ADMITTANCE (paid thru April 30, 2009). For more information call the National TV/Theatrical Contracts Hotline (323) 549-6665 or email contract2009@sag.org.

Member informational meetings are also planned for Branch locations across the country. More information on Branch member informational meetings will be available shortly.

Please plan to attend the member informational meeting in your area to get important facts regarding the tentative agreement. Screen Actors Guild negotiators, national board members and staff experts will be on hand to provide a thorough overview of the tentative agreement.

You can also find more information on the upcoming referendum, including details of the tentative agreement, by visiting the TV/Theatrical Contracts Center at http://www.sag.org or by emailing contract2009@sag.org.

We know how important this contract is to all Screen Actors Guild members. We urge you to stay informed by visiting http://www.sag.org often, attending the member informational meeting in your area and contacting us with questions and comments.

Watch for your ballot which is mailing May 19, 2009, and when you receive it, vote yes and return your ballot right away. Don’t delay, ballots must be received by June 9.

In unity,

David P. White
Interim National Executive Director

John T. McGuire
Chief Negotiator
Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors Strongly Recommends your “Yes” Vote on this contract. Let’s get back to work with a raise.

From AFTRA themselves (APR. 23, 2009)


April 2009

Joint AFTRA and SAG National Board of Directors Approves New Commercials Contracts for Ratification

Meeting by videoconference plenary in Los Angeles and New York, the Joint SAG-AFTRA National Board today voted unanimously to approve and recommend to members, new three-year successor agreements to the 2006 AFTRA Television and Radio Commercials Contracts and the 2006 Screen Actors Guild Television Commercials Contract.

The proposed agreements, which cover performers working in commercials made for and reused on television, radio, the Internet, and new media, will net a three-year increase in payments to performers totaling an estimated $36 million, including approximately $21 million in increased contributions to the SAG Pension & Health and AFTRA Health & Retirement plans. The total combined value of the AFTRA and SAG contracts is projected at more than $2.9 billion for working performers, including actors, singers, dancers, choreographers, stunt persons, and extras.

Additionally, the new contracts contain an agreement in principle outlining terms for a pilot study for the purpose of testing the Gross Rating Points (GRP) model of restructuring compensation to performers as proposed by Booz & Co. The two-year study will be conducted by a jointly retained consultant engaged by the unions and the industry. The study will be paid for by grants from Screen Actors Guild-Industry Advancement and Cooperative Fund (IACF) and the AFTRA-Industry Cooperative Fund (AICF).

The unions also successfully established a first-ever payment structure in commercials for the Internet and other new media platforms. The unions established jurisdiction over commercial work made for the Internet in 2000, and new media formats in 2006. The new payment structure goes into effect in the third year of the contract.

The referendum will be mailed to the members of both unions next week (dual SAG and AFTRA members will receive one ballot) with a return date in mid-May. Results will be announced at that time.

Following the vote, AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon and AFTRA Chair of the Joint Negotiating Committee said: “Our new agreement is a major achievement in any economy, but it is especially crucial for union members working to make ends meet in today’s difficult marketplace. I applaud the vision and hard work of the joint committee who worked together to win increases both in performers’ minimum compensation and in employer contributions to our health and pension plans, and who successfully preserved Class A payments so critically important to our members around the country.”

Screen Actors Guild National President Alan Rosenberg said: “I am pleased and gratified to have achieved these gains and to recommend this agreement for ratification. I congratulate all of the parties, and particularly the co-chairs, committee members and staff on the remarkable gains they achieved for actors across the country.”

“It’s a solid agreement with meaningful gains,” said Screen Actors Guild Chair of the Joint Negotiating Committee Sue-Anne Morrow. “There are significant improvements in compensation and benefits for union commercial actors and it gives the industry, including our members, a measure of financial certainty in an uncertain economy. It also guarantees advertisers continued access to the finest actors in the world on whose talent their brand success often rests. It’s a win for actors, a win for the industry, and a win for consumers.”

Screen Actors Guild Chief Negotiator John McGuire, a veteran of more than 10 separate commercials contracts negotiations said: “This is an agreement we can all be proud of and I look forward to ratification by the members of Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA. I commend the negotiating committee chairs, co-chairs, and members, along with my colleagues Ray Rodriguez, Screen Actors Guild’s Deputy National Executive Director of Contracts, and Mathis Dunn, AFTRA’s Chief Negotiator.”

“This is a successful conclusion to a challenging negotiation, conducted during a difficult economic and technological time in the industry. As always, that success rests with the members of our joint committee, our staff and our counterparts at the Joint Policy Committee. Together, we served the interests of actors and the industry,” McGuire added.

AFTRA Assistant National Executive Director Mathis L. Dunn, Jr., who served as AFTRA Chief Negotiator, noted: “I commend all of our union members who participated in the many educational, informational, and wages and working conditions meetings leading up to these negotiations. They delivered a clear message to our joint negotiating committee on their priority issues. I am proud to say that we delivered on these priorities and much more. The agreement will enhance the careers of all working performers today, and protect future generations of union members as technology and consumer tastes shift in the radically changing world of new media.”

Highlights of the new agreement include:

Three-year agreement, term effective April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2012, upon ratification by members of both unions.
5.5% overall increase in wages and other compensation over the life of the contracts, including a 4.43% increase, effective April 1, 2009, in Class A, Wild Spot, and basic cable session and use fees.
For product moved over to the Internet or in New Media, compensation of 1.3 times the minimum session fee for 8 weeks of use and 3.5 times the minimum session fee for one year’s use.
For product made for the Internet or New Media, a new minimum rate structure of 1.3 times the minimum session fee for 8 weeks of use and 3.5 times the minimum session fee for one year’s use, effective in the third year of the contract.
0.5% increases in the employer contribution rate to the AFTRA H&R and SAG P&H plans, and a 0.2% increase in employer contributions to the SAG Industry Advancement Cooperative Fund and the AFTRA-Industry Cooperative Fund, bringing the total contribution rate to 15.5%. Effective in year three, the agreement provides for a cap on P&H and H&R contributions for services covered by the contracts to $1 million per performer, per contract, per year with anticipated net gains in P&H and H&R over the term of the contract.
Secured five new covered jobs for commercial extras, up from 40 to 45.
Established new exclusivity compensation for made-for cable only commercials.
Instituted, for the first time, a contract provision to pay extras a round-trip mileage fee of $8.
Increased foreign use payments under the Spanish Language section of the contract.
The across the board increase under the AFTRA Radio Commercials Contract is 5.35%, in addition to contributions to AFTRA H&R and the AICF.
All of the unions’ proposals regarding diversity issues were addressed in the negotiations.
AFTRA and SAG joint member education and informational meetings will be conducted around the nation to provide members with an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the new agreements prior to voting.

Formal negotiations between the 26-member AFTRA/SAG Joint Negotiating Committee and the Joint Policy Committee (JPC) of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) began on February 23 and concluded on the morning of April 1 in New York City.

About AFTRA
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, are the people who entertain and inform America. In 32 Locals across the country, AFTRA members work as actors, journalists, singers, dancers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audiobooks, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet, and other digital media. The 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists of AFTRA are working together to protect and improve their jobs, lives, and communities in the 21st century. From new art forms to new technology, AFTRA members embrace change in their work and craft to enhance American culture and society.

About SAG
Screen Actors Guild is the nation’s largest labor union representing working actors. Established in 1933, SAG has a rich history in the American labor movement, from standing up to studios to break long-term engagement contracts in the 1940s to fighting for artists’ rights amid the digital revolution sweeping the entertainment industry in the 21st century. With 20 branches nationwide, SAG represents nearly 120,000 actors who work in film, television, industrials, commercials, video games, music videos and other new media. The Guild exists to enhance actors’ working conditions, compensation and benefits and to be a powerful, unified voice on behalf of artists’ rights. SAG is a proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Headquartered in Los Angeles.

June 2, 2009

DIGITAL MEDIA LAW: SAG-AFTRA COMMERCIALS UPDATE (Mar. 24, 2009)

 

Digital Media Law

 

SAG-AFTRA Commercials Update

Posted: 24 Mar 2009 11:54 AM PDT

Small moves by each side, but movement nonetheless, characterizes the ongoing commercials contract negotiations being held in New York between SAG and AFTRA jointly and the advertising industry, according to a source close to the talks.

The unions retain the option of seeking a strike authorization, the source added, but are not planning to do so as yet, given the incremental progress being made. No doubt the uncertainty of obtaining authorization in this financial and industry climate is also a factor.

A welcome bit of news: the source said that SAG and AFTRA are working well together, with no evidence of factionalism. Most SAG-AFTRA decisions are being made by consensus, with little need to vote, and with disagreements being debated forcefully but respectfully.

Talks are believed to be ongoing. The contract expires March 31, one week from today, although negotiations could always continue past expiration if necessary, if both parties agree.
 

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