Surprise, surprise: SAG is at war with itself again, this time about whether there are or aren’t discussions informally underway, and is or isn’t progress being made, on a new contract with the Big Media employers. Today, the NY Division Board of the Screen Actors Guild issued a resolution claiming “nothing is happening and we are no closer to a deal than we were six weeks ago”, blaming only the SAG negotiators and not the AMPTP negotiators for the impasse, and setting a deadline that if “no clear and obvious movement forward” is made by August 25th that a federal mediator should be brought in. The resolution prompted swift denials by both SAG national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen and SAG national president Alan Rosenberg. This is not the first time, nor will it probably be the last, that SAG’s NY Division Board rightly or wrongly has attacked the guild’s Hollywood leadership. Here are all three statements:

August 17, 2008 — The NY Division Board of the Screen Actors Guild issued the following resolution today:

“Every day the members of Screen Actors Guild are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in unrealized wage increases while working under an expired TV/Theatrical contract.  Every day our pension and health plans are losing the additional contributions these wage increases would supply. We hear from National Executive Director Doug Allen that, “Discussions through alternative channels are ongoing,” and from President Alan Rosenberg that, “We’re doing a phenomenal job!” But nothing is happening and we are no closer to a deal than we were six weeks ago.

“In failing to bargain realistically with the AMPTP and remove unattainable items from the table, our negotiating team, controlled by the current Hollywood leadership, has pursued an agenda that has more to do with politics than with securing a beneficial contract and has betrayed the trust of the membership. It seems, as industry press has reported, that they intend to simply sit still until the upcoming elections are concluded, rather than make the “unpopular” moves necessary to make a deal. In short, the willful inaction of our negotiators is costing our members money, every day.

“The New York members of the National Board of Screen Actors Guild insist that our negotiators signal to the AMPTP SAG’s willingness to bargain in good faith and remove any impediments to the achievement of a deal.  If there is no clear and obvious movement forward in the negotiating process by August 25th, we demand that our negotiators request a federal mediator be brought in to facilitate the negotiating process and finally get our members a contract.  Our members are losing over $1.7 million every week that we continue to work under the expired TV/Theatrical agreement. This must not continue.”

NY President and second National Vice-President, Sam Freed, also issued the following comment: “All of us in NY, Hollywood and across the country should be concerned about how this failure to reach an agreement is impacting our members.  They have already suffered significantly as a result of the WGA strike, and now they are experiencing an additional loss of work, made worse when they can find a job, by having to work without a contract under old terms and conditions.  There are some who feel we have all the time in the world to make this deal.  We on the NY Board do not.”

SAG national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen’s response to the NYD resolution:

“This is an advisory motion of the New York Division Board of Directors. SAG’s negotiation strategy is determined by the National Negotiating Committee under the authority of, and informed by the advice and review of the National Board of Directors. The New York Division Board has proportional representation on both of these bodies and can, like Hollywood and Regional Branch Division Boards, submit advisory motions to the National Board of Directors for its consideration.

“As recently as several weeks ago, the National Board of Directors provided significant guidance to the National Negotiating Committee and SAG’s negotiators in the form of a unanimous resolution declaring that two new media principles offered by management are unacceptable. This strong message of unity and support offered and approved by the representatives of the Regional Branch Division, the Hollywood Division and the New York Division of the Board provided specific direction to the negotiators on key elements of the negotiations.

“Contrary to some characterizations included in this advisory motion, the negotiators have held substantive discussions with numerous representatives of the employers and the AMPTP over the last several weeks and will continue to do so in an effort to secure a fair deal for SAG members.

“Mediation is an option available any time the parties mutually agree to it. Mediation does not guarantee that negotiations will accelerate to an agreement and often has slowed the process down, as recently seen in the WGA negotiations which included mediation. It has not, up to this point, been viewed as something the parties feel would facilitate an agreement.

“As per our standard procedure, this Division advisory motion will be conveyed to the National Board of Directors along with any advisories that may be issued by the Regional Branch Division or Hollywood Division Boards.

Los Angeles, CA (August 17, 2008) – SAG National President Alan Rosenberg responds to the New York Division board press release:

“This advisory motion is not in the best interests of New York Division SAG members or any SAG members across the country. It could tend to delay and prolong the negotiations by emboldening management with a false belief that SAG actors are split on the issues.

“The plainly political nature of this action is cynical and unfortunate. It is an attempt to damage SAG’s negotiations and New York Division members may well wonder why this action is being taken by their elected representatives,” said Rosenberg.

“On Wednesday, August 13, 2008, the SAG National Negotiating Committee met for an update and was at no time informed of the New York Division advisory motion which had been passed by the New York Division Board in executive session two days prior on Monday, August 11.

“New York Division Board members, including the New York Division President and Negotiating Committee Co-chair, were in attendance at the negotiating committee meeting and did not mention the advisory motion. These representatives of SAG actors in the New York Division failed to provide the negotiating committee with important and critical information in their possession at the time.”