3RD UPDATE: Unite For Strength is still complaining.

2ND UPDATE: See below for the actual SAG National Board motion that was passed out and approved at the panel’s meeting. It includes the line about the identifier.

UPDATE: Once again the SAG rumor mill is working overtime. Now a message (below) was sent today to SAG National President Alan Rosenberg and SAG National Executive Director Doug Allen from Unite For Strength leaders Ned Vaughn, Kate Walsh, and Adam Arkin questioning the postcard poll. Of concern seems to be the issue of confidentiality. I have obtained a letter (below) sent by Allen today to the SAG National Board that provides answers. I’m told, for instance, that any reports generated will not contain any information by name or by which option an individual member chose on the response card or even by which individuals sent a card back:

Dear Alan and Doug:
Over the last couple of days, we’ve heard disturbing rumors that the response cards included in the Contract 2008 Special Bulletin were coded to allow identification of each member and how they voted, by name. In our conversations with Michelle Bennett and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, neither denied the accuracy of these rumors.

As you know, secret balloting is a bedrock principle of union democracy. When members are polled in either a binding or advisory manner, they expect their responses to be protected by anonymity. Coding their responses in a way that can identify how each member voted is highly unorthodox.

It’s especially troubling in this case, given the nature of the “contract update”. In fact, the mailer provides little in the way of an update, as there has been no progress since the AMPTP made their final offer on June 30th. That raises questions about why this mailer – which presents the work of the leadership in very positive terms – was sent during an election in which members of the leadership are running.

We believe SAG members deserve to know why this mailing was timed in the middle of the board election and why their votes on the response card are identifiable by name. Specifically, members should be given answers to these questions:

1. Who made the decision that members’ responses would be identifiable by name? Who approved that decision?

2. Why were the response cards coded that way? (If the intent was to “ensure that only active members in good standing participate” or to prevent fraudulent responses, this could have been accomplished without including personal identifiers.)

3. How will information about individual members’ votes be utilized?

4. Why weren’t members plainly told that the response cards were coded in a way that allows the Guild to know how they voted, by name?

5. Why was the mailer, which clearly casts the current leadership in a positive light, sent during the board election? Even if electioneering was not the intent of the mailer, the risk that it will unduly influence votes is nonetheless real. What prevented the mailer from being sent before or after the election?

We look forward to your prompt response.

Today, Doug Allen sent this letter to SAG’s National Board:

Dear National Board Members and National Board Alternates:

Some Board members have asked about the response card that accompanied the recent negotiations newsletter.

The poll using the response card is not a ballot election or a ratification or referendum vote. It is intended to be a sampling of member views on the AMPTP proposal in the TV/Theatrical contract negotiations, a sampling that will help inform me and the Negotiating Committee. The response cards are received by Integrity Voting Systems and are scanned to determine that they are authentic. Then Integrity Voting Systems will tabulate the results of the poll.

The sample response card reviewed by the National Board at the meeting on August 21, 2008 contained a reference to a “unique bar code” to prevent fraudulent reproduction of the poll response card, so the Board was aware of this component of the poll at the time of its review. (The actual language on the card distributed at that meeting was as follows, “This postcard includes a unique bar code to ensure that only active members in good standing participate in this poll.”) [See attached]

The bar code on the card is unique to the individual member to whom the newsletter was sent. This was done for two reasons. One reason, as mentioned, was to make sure only one card would be returned and counted per individual member, preventing anyone from skewing the results of the poll by reproducing the cards in large numbers and returning them filled in. Another reason for the unique bar code was to permit demographic analysis of the response to determine how representative the response is. If the response is statistically similar, for example, to the distribution of membership by branch/division, it is more reliable as an expression of overall membership sentiment. We will also be able to analyze the results by earnings under the contract. This information will be shared with the Negotiating Committee. All demographic analysis will be done in the aggregate. Any reports generated will not contain any information by name or by which option an individual member chose on the response card or even by which individuals sent a card back.

I have instructed Michelle Bennett to make sure that the name of any responding member is to be kept confidential and is not to be used for any purpose. My instructions to that effect will not be changed without further authority from the National Board.

Being able to tie each response card to an individual member was necessary for the reasons stated above. Neither I nor the Negotiating Committee, however, has any reason to know whether a particular member responded or which of the two options he or she chose. That information will not be disclosed.

We promised the membership that if they responded, their identities would be kept confidential and we will keep that commitment. To make that promise clear, I added the following language to the postcard before printing, “The confidentiality of your response will be maintained.” If you have not already done so, I encourage you to read the newsletter carefully and to fill out and send in the response card. Please encourage your fellow members to do the same.

Also, here is the actual SAG National Board motion — which includes the line about the identifier — that was passed out and approved by the panel at its meeting:

MOTION — That the National Board approve the recommendation of the national TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee to include in the upcoming negotiations update newsletter a poll of the membership, as a postage-paid reply card, substantially in the following form:

Please read the information in the attached newsletter carefully. This newsletter explains why we haven’t reached agreement with the AMPTP on the new TV/Theatrical contract.

Now we need to hear from you. Please let us know how you feel by indicating which of the following options you prefer (check ONLY ONE box below):

□ Continue negotiating with the AMPTP to secure a fair TV/Theatrical contract for actors with better terms than the AMPTP’s June 30th “final offer.”

□ Accept the AMPTP’s June 30th “final offer” without modification.

This is not a binding ratification vote, but the results of this poll will be valuable information for the negotiating committee and National Board to use to evaluate how members feel about the negotiations.

Please choose one option and send in your response now! Postcards must be received at the P.O. Box only no later than _______ on ____________ to be counted.

This postcard includes a unique barcode to ensure that only active members in good standing participate in this poll.