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June 10, 2009

SAG Ratify TV/Theatrical Agreements

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Screen Actors Guild Members Overwhelmingly Ratify TV/Theatrical Agreements


Los Angeles, (June 9, 2009)Screen Actors Guild announced today that members have voted overwhelmingly to approve its TV/Theatrical contracts by a vote of 78 percent to 22 percent.
 
The two-year successor agreement covers film and digital television programs, motion pictures and new media productions. The pact becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. June 10, 2009 and expires June 30, 2011.
 
The contracts provide more than $105 million in wages, increased pension contributions, and other gains and establishes a template for SAG coverage of new media formats.
 
Approximately 110,000 SAG members received ballots of which 35.26 percent returned them – a return that is above average compared with typical referenda on Screen Actors Guild contracts. Integrity Voting Systems of Everett, WA, provided election services and tonight certified the final vote tally upon completion of the tabulation.
 
The vote count in the Hollywood Division was 70.70 percent to 29.30 percent in favor. In the New York Division, the vote count was 85.74 percent to 14.26 percent in favor. And in the Regional Branch Division, the vote count was 89.06 percent to 10.94 percent in favor.
 
Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg said, “The membership has spoken and has decided to work under the terms of this contract that many of us, who have been involved in these negotiations from the beginning, believe to be devastatingly unsatisfactory. Tomorrow morning I will be contacting the elected leadership of the other talent unions with the hope of beginning a series of pre-negotiation summit meetings in preparation for 2011. I call upon all SAG members to begin to ready themselves for the battle ahead,” Rosenberg added.
 
Screen Actors Guild Interim National Executive Director David White said, “This decisive vote gets our members back to work with immediate pay raises and puts SAG in a strong position for the future. Preparation for the next round of negotiations begins now. Our members can expect more positive changes in the coming months as we organize new work opportunities, repair and reinvigorate our relationships with our sister unions and industry partners, and continue to improve the Guild’s operations.”
 
Screen Actors Guild Chief Negotiator John McGuire said, “I want to thank the SAG members and staff who dedicated their time to the negotiations process. We emerged with a solid deal that the members have now voted up. The negotiating team worked tirelessly, building on the work of the first negotiating committee, to deliver these improvements to members.”
 
Screen Actors Guild began talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on April 15, 2008.  Guild Chief Negotiator John McGuire, Interim National Executive Director David White, and Deputy National Executive Director for Contracts Ray Rodriguez, working with a 10-person negotiating task force comprised of Screen Actors Guild board members and officers representing the three divisions, reached the tentative agreement on April 16, 2009 after 12 months of periodic negotiations with the motion picture studios and television networks.
 
For further information on the new contract, including the full text and a summary of the agreement, click here <http://www.sag.org/tvtheatrical-negotiations> .  

ACTORS RESPOND TO CONTRACT RATIFICATION

Tony Shalhoub, actor
“This is a great decision for SAG and I’m so appreciative of everything the new leadership is doing to put the Guild back on track. They’ve obviously got the right ideas for making SAG stronger.”

Stephen Collins, actor
“This contract passed because members knew it was time to take advantage of the gains our negotiators won and get back to work. On top of that, they understood that risking our ability to negotiate alongside AFTRA and the other unions in the 2011 negotiations would have been a huge mistake.  It’s a great day for SAG.”

Sam Freed, actor, 2nd National Vice President
“This decision by the membership marks the end of a very long process.  We can now move forward with a new sense of certainty.”

Sue-Anne Morrow, actor, National Board Member representing New York
“This is a good deal with good gains. SAG’s members clearly agree. It’s about time we got a raise. I’m so pleased that SAG’s members exercised their right to be heard and said ‘Yes!’.”

Mike Hodge, actor, National Board Member representing New York
“I am extremely pleased that we have finally come to the close of a long, unproductive period. I am hopeful that we can heal our wounds and really start the work to become a unified, national union.”

Nancy Duerr, actor, National Board Member representing SAG Florida Branch
“This is a victory for SAG performers across our region. Stalled and delayed productions can now get underway, boosting our local economies. This contract not only puts more money in members’ pockets, it preserves the high standards of working conditions our members have come to expect.”

Todd Hissong, actor, Chicago Branch President, National Board Member
“By passing this referendum, Chicago members have sent a clear message that we want to get back to work. Screen Actors Guild members across the country have yet again demonstrated our grasp of the issues, the importance of unionism, and our need to stand together with our sister unions to make deals that benefit us all.”

David Hartley-Margolin, Colorado actor, SAG 3rd Vice President
“The membership always has the last word when it comes to contract matters. They have spoken. Their endorsement of the deal with the AMPTP ends the uncertainty that has been hovering over us and allows Screen Actors Guild and the industry to move forward together.”

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June 3, 2009

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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June 2, 2009

The New York SAG Board (APR. 3, 2009)


A Message from New York Division President Sam Freed

 
To the New York Membership:
 
 A tentative deal has been reached on our Commercials Contract.  The proposed contract, unanimously approved by the joint negotiating committee, must now go to the joint Boards of both SAG and AFTRA for approval and then be ratified by the membership.  
 
 This negotiation marks a tremendous accomplishment for both our unions and the industry.  We should all be incredibly proud and thankful for the work done by the joint committee that consisted of both elected and volunteer members.  The national Chairs of the Committee, New York Secretary Treasurer Sue Anne Morrow for SAG and National President Roberta Reardon for AFTRA should be especially congratulated for their leadership.  Lead negotiators John McGuire, Mathis Dunn and Ray Rodriguez were equally masterful in negotiating a deal that will serve our membership for the next 3 years.
 
 You will be provided with more details about the proposed contract once the joint Boards approve it.  But in short this deal preserves Class A residuals, increases minimums across the board, increases pension and health contributions and sets standards for the internet and new media.
 
 The solid gains in this proposal are made even more phenomenal considering the economic atmosphere in which they were made. I am eager to present them to you for your consideration and ratification.
 
 We are moving forward.
 
 In Solidarity,
 
 Sam Freed
 New York Division President

DAVID WHITE (APR. 1, 2009)


Dear Screen Actors Guild Member,

I am very pleased to inform you that early this morning, the SAG/AFTRA Joint Commercials Negotiating Committee, under the capable leadership of John McGuire, Mathis Dunn and Ray Rodriguez, reached a proposed deal on the commercials contracts. The committee voted unanimously to recommend this agreement to the SAG/AFTRA Joint National Board for approval and membership referendum.

I would like to express my congratulations and sincere appreciation to the members of the negotiating team for their hard work and dedication during this challenging process.

Please take a moment to review the below news release which provides some details about the proposed agreement.

In unity and looking forward.


David White

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