No doubt SAG’s Town Hall meeting on Monday in NYC is going to be fraught with tension. (December 15, 2008: 6:00 PM-8:00 PM, Westin Times Square – Majestic Ballroom, 270 West 43rd Street at 8th Avenue, 5th Floor.) Not only are the Hollywood-based SAG president Alan Rosenberg and executive director/chief negotiator Doug Allen going to be there in person, but so will the New York Division board members who’ve just called for 1) a stop to the Strike Authorization Vote, 2) an emergency National Board meeting, 3) the appointment of a new national negotiating task force, and 4) a demand that the AMPTP return to the bargaining table once all of the above are done. I, for one, would be very curious to see what would happen if the anti-Membership First group of NYers got their way. Would the newly elected National Board go along with this?
Would the AMPTP?
I’ve been wondering for some time now if this strategy would succeed or fail before SAG traveled down the pot-holed road of a strike authorization vote. Funny, I thought the catalyst for this alternative method to gain some leverage with the employers would be the LA-based Unite For Strength. But instead it’s the NYC guild leaders. Hmm. Meanwhile, I’m surprised these NY Division’ers are still stressing all the money SAG is supposedly losing in New Media residuals by not having accepted the AMPTP’s June 30th deal. Hasn’t the Big Apple contingent heard how the WGA is still waiting for its New Media money after A YEAR! Here’s another aspect of the plan no one is talking about: it would have the effect of delaying any SAG labor action before the Academy Awards. That’s either good or bad depending on your POV. But the WGA found that threatening Big Media’s Oscars succeeded in giving them the necessary leverage to secure the writers a new contract.
Now there’s controvery over how the NY Division demands were conceived and with whose input. Because tonight, Eric Bogosian, an alternate board member from the NY division, issued this complaint:
“A statement was made today by some New York Division members making certain demands of our national president, national board and national negotiating committee. I am an elected member of the New York board and was not present at the meeting where this motion was discussed. I was not informed of the content of the motion and I am very disappointed that I was not included in the process.”
Here’s today’s statement from the NY Division of SAG:
We are your elected representatives on the Screen Actors Guild Board. We are united in our dedication to our constituents and in our allegiance to Screen Actors Guild and all that it provides: fair wages; safe working conditions; contracts that compensate for today’s work, while anticipating tomorrow’s reality.
Screen Actors Guild is on the verge of a strike.
In October, SAG had a national board meeting. Negotiations for our TV/Theatrical contract, which had expired in June, had been stalled for months. Working under an outdated contract our members were losing $1.7 million a week. In response to this desperate situation, SAG’s national board voted to request a federal mediator, renew negotiations, and achieve a deal. We also agreed that failure to make a deal would trigger a strike referendum. If 75% of voting members voted “yes” on the referendum, the national board could then decide to call a strike.
Negotiations failed. Then something else failed, too. The American economy.
With that collapse, everything has changed. Our members, and our industry, are struggling through the worst economic crisis in memory. While issuing a strike authorization may have been a sensible strategy in October, we believe it is irresponsible to do so now, in the face of widespread layoffs, cutbacks and reduced programming. The hardest and most important decision any union member must make is whether or not to go on strike. Before we ask you to make that choice, we feel we must, as your elected representatives, make every move we can to get you a deal.
With that imperative in mind, we make the following demands of Screen Actors Guild:
— That all plans for a strike referendum cease;
— That the president of Screen Actors Guild, Alan Rosenberg, immediately call an emergency National Board meeting;
— That the national board appoint a new negotiating task force to replace the current negotiating committee at this emergency meeting;
— That the AMPTP be encouraged in the strongest of terms to return to the table.
With a fresh team, the AMPTP will return to the table, and we can get a fair deal. A deal that will not cost careers, homes, lives. We want our members to understand that while strikes are sometimes unavoidable, we will do everything in our power to avoid this one.
The New York Division Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild