On the eve of the restart of negotiations with the AMPTP, SAG prez Alan Rosenberg sent this message to members. Following it is an AFTRA insider’s response to me:

May 27, 2008
Dear SAG Members,

Tomorrow we will resume TV/Theatrical contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).  As you know, the AMPTP suspended our negotiations on May 6 to begin talks with AFTRA for its primetime Exhibit A contract.

Screen Actors Guild observers were present for only 6 of the 18 days that AFTRA has been meeting with the AMPTP.  We were proud to invite AFTRA to attend every day of our bargaining sessions. In the event that our committee met in executive session with only senior staff present, or in sidebar with a handful of staff and members, we reported the discussions and results of the sessions and gave AFTRA every document.  Unfortunately that level of transparency was not reciprocated. Observers were in fact told they could not attend 12 days of confidential sessions. As a result SAG has not had a representative there for the last week. We don’t have any details about the status of the talks except that AFTRA and the AMPTP are continuing to meet today, and we will resume our negotiations at 10 a.m. at the AMPTP tomorrow morning.

Your National Negotiating Committee remains committed to getting the best terms possible for actors. We have spent the entire 2 ½ weeks since talks were suspended reaching out to members around the country. We held Town Hall meetings in Los Angeles, New York and via videoconference in Chicago, Miami and San Francisco. We also visited numerous sets in Los Angeles and movie locations in New York. We met with high profile actors in groups and sought input from as many members as possible. We asked you to provide your thoughts via email, and thousands of you responded.

We are going back into these critical negotiations armed with your thoughts, observations, demands, and your blessings.  Your leaders will do everything possible to get a fair contract. You and your families deserve nothing less.

The main outstanding issues remain the same as they were in early May:

Middle Class Actors: Actors and background actors are struggling to stay in the game. While management has said they have money to spend here, we want to make sure it’s spent in ways that make a real difference: increases in minimums, including major role, mileage, schedule and money breaks, and more coverage for background actors, for example.

Clips: We have said no to management’s demands of you to give up your right to consent to the use of clips containing your images.

DVD: We simply want the employers to pay your Pension & Health contributions on top of your residual, instead of taking it out of your share of DVD revenues. The entire eligible cast shares only 1% of that revenue. You shouldn’t have to pay your own P& H contributions out of that percentage.

Force Majeur: The SAG contract has longstanding provisions for down periods when a project goes out of production because of an Act of God or strike by another union. We have said no to management’s proposal to wipe away pending claims and to force you to negotiate these rights by yourself

New Media Jurisdiction: SAG wants to cover ALL new media projects, no matter how low the budget. We should not allow major studios and networks to produce non-union new media projects without SAG actors because they have low budgets.

I promise to keep you apprised of our progress over the coming days. Thank you for your support and please continue to provide input by emailing Contract2008@sag.org.

In unity,
Alan Rosenberg

An AFTRA insider tonight told me in response:

“From the very beginning of the AFTRA primetime negotiations, the AFTRA Negotiating Committee extended precisely the same invitation and courtesy to the SAG staff observers that the SAG negotiating committee had extended to the AFTRA observers during the SAG talks. While it’s certainly true that the SAG representatives (along with observers from other unions) were excluded from “executive session” meetings of the AFTRA Negotiating Committee, things were no different during the SAG talks — AFTRA observers were not permitted to sit in on the SAG negotiating committee’s executive sessions. Unlike Alan Rosenberg, Roberta Reardon didn’t whine about it because such exclusions are standard practice. There are times when, for legal reasons, a negotiating committee needs to meet privately. We understood and respected SAG’s need for such privacy, and we assumed that the SAG observers would understand and respect ours. Perhaps that was too much to expect.”