UPDATE: Tonight, the SAG National Majority-controlled actors guild finally sent out its first statement regarding the current AMPTP negotiations standstill, and the AMPTP responded. (See both below) The rejection of the AMPTP’s “last best & final” offer made Wednesday was not a unanimous vote — 73% to 27% — at today’s Special Meeting of SAG’s National Board. And the panel refused a Membership First-sponsored motion to both reject the AMPTP’s “Last Best & Final” offer and in addition send out the Strike Authorization Vote to members. “The majority of MF didn’t believe just a rejection was strong enough,” a source tells me. But the board also refused to let SAG members choose whether to ratify the AMPTP’s proposed TV/Theatrical Contract as is. (FYI: I urged the previous leadership, and I’ll do it again now, to send out the contract to SAG members as soon as possible. They need to have their voices heard.) So, once again, the SAG-AMPTP negotiations for a new pact are at an impasse.
It continues to amaze me how the SAG National Majority and their handpicked new Interim National Executive Director David White and Chief Negotiator John McGuire have no immediate plan, no blueprint for the future, no even suggestions, as to what to do next now that the SAG-AMPTP talks are stalled yet again. Especially since the coalition-in-charge of Unite For Strength, the New York Division, and the Regional Branches kept complaining about the exact same impasse under the previous leadership. “Considering how they behaved today, they’re not just still in shock from Thursday. They must be in a coma,” my source said.
Several sources tell me that White himself told the National Board today that the AMPTP’s offer “sucked” — then apologized for using “such inappropriate language”. (I’m pretty sure SAG members have been using way worse words to describe it.) But White offered no guidance to the board as to what to do next. Nevertheless, his new $400,000+ contract as Interim NED was approved at today’s plenary. But it was done without any board vetting. “The New York Division denied the board any opportunity to ask questions regarding White or the contract,” one of my sources fumed tonight. “So SAG just hired its highest paid executive without an interview.” (One question would have been why White is receiving the equivalent of former NED and chief negotiator Doug Allen’s salary but doing only half the work.)
So now the SAG National Majority has put the Guild into an awkward “wait and see” position, naively hoping against hope that the AMPTP will take pity on it and offer better terms. As if. Even the previous leadership only faced a “last and best” offer, not a “last, best and final” offer which is even more unmoveable in labor negotiations. Especially with the AMPTP threatening to withdraw it or offer worse terms if the LB&O isn’t approved within 60 days. “Things are at more of a standstill than before,” a source tells me. My own guess is that the AMPTP will laugh in SAG’s face. One SAG National Majority member told the meeting she thought SAG should just stay with its old contract — which would mean absolutely no pay for New Media at all for the actors for another two years at least.
Here’s the SAG statement tonight:
STATEMENT FROM SAG NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS
SAG NATIONAL BOARD REJECTS AMPTP LAST, BEST AND FINAL OFFER
Los Angeles, (February 21, 2009) – The Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors today voted 73% to 27% to “reject the AMPTPs last, best and final offer dated February 19, 2009.”
We entered this round of negotiations sending an unmistakably clear message that we were ready to make a deal. In an effort to put the town back to work, our negotiator agreed to modify the Guild’s bargaining position to bring the Guild in line with the deals made by our sister unions.
The AMPTPs last-minute, surprise demand for a new term of agreement extending to 2012 is regressive and damaging and clearly signals the employers’ unwillingness to agree to the deal they established with other entertainment unions. The demand for a new term of agreement was not part of their final offer of June 30, 2008; it was not part of the federally mediated talks of November 2008, and should not have been inserted into the discussions when we returned to negotiations on February 17, 2009.
What management presented as a compromise is, in fact, an attempt to separate Screen Actors Guild from other industry unions. By attempting to extend our contract expiration one year beyond the other entertainment unions, the AMPTP intends to deleverage our bargaining position from this point forward.
Screen Actors Guild’s goal is to successfully complete these negotiations and get the industry back to work as soon as possible. The AMPTP has clearly stated their need and desire for financial certainty and industry peace. This new proposal does the exact opposite, and will only result in constant negotiating cycles and continued labor unrest.
So the SAG National Majority now admits it rolled back the previous leadership’s bargaining positions. Yet see how the AMPTP tells the so-called “moderates” that their terms are still too militant. Here’s the AMPTP statement:
The Producers’ offer is strong and fair – and has been judged to be strong and fair by all of Hollywood’s other major Guilds and Unions. We have kept our offer on the table – and even enhanced it – despite the historically
unprecedented economic crisis that has clobbered our nation and our industry. The Producers have always sought a full three-year deal with SAG, just as we negotiated with all the other Unions and Guilds, and have offered SAG a way to achieve an earlier expiration date without contributing to further labor uncertainty. We simply cannot offer SAG a better deal than the rest of the industry achieved under far better economic conditions than those now confronting our industry.