SAG’s National Executive Director David White has been telling everyone what rotten financial shape the Guild is in — despite $27 million in reserves — to the point that he’s firing 36 employees and promising a hiring freeze. So you would think that the union would be on an austerity budget. But noooooooooooooo. Instead, I’ve just learned tonight that SAG has retained one of the priciest flackeries, The Saylor Company (begun by ex-LA Times senior business editor and ex-Sitrick & Company flack Mark Saylor) to develop a PR campaign that will persuade members to ratify the SAG-AMPTP tentative contract. His other clients paying through the nose have included the governments of Dubai and Ethiopia, and indicted Broadcom guy Henry Nicholas. The firm claims it’s “known for handling high-stakes communications and top-level media relations. The firm’s professionals have advised major corporations, governments and high-profile individuals when the circumstances are complex and decisions are critical. Our clients count on us to map out strategies quickly and execute plans that deliver results.”

I’ve confirmed that Saylor has been working for SAG secretly for the past month. Don’t get me wrong: Mark Saylor is very good at his job. “The staff at SAG have spent the last year arguing against this contract. Now they have to argue for this contract,” an insider tells me tonight in defense of Saylor’s hiring. “Wouldn’t you want to bring in a fresh set of eyes in thinking through communications strategy?”

But this follows SAG’s recent hiring a 6-figure second banana mouthpiece to assist Pam Greenwalt in communications (even though she very ably handled the office by herself for years). To be fair, SAG’s previous leadership hired Sitrick & Company’s ex-LA Times senior business editor Jim Bates at what was described to me at the time as a pro bono modest rate to help part-time with the PR war that the Guild was facing mano a mano against the AMPTP during last summer’s negotiations stalemate. But that was run past the SAG National Board. I’m told that by contrast the hiring of The Saylor Company was not brought to the attention of the National Board like it should have been during the recent two full days of meetings. Then again, the current SAG leadership isn’t known for its transparency.