UPDATES SAG Board Narrowly Votes To Oppose MPTF’s LTC Unit Closure
MPTF Reaction below

2ND UPDATE: I’m now being told that almost all of SAG’s Regional Branches and New York Division and a few of Hollywood’s Unite For Strength members DID NOT oppose the MPTF long term care facility closure. Shameful.

Here’s what I’ve found out about the SAG vote: The Hollywood Division board dominated by Membership First met a few weeks ago and passed a resolution to recommend that the National Board take a stand opposing the MPTF long-term care facility closure. The Hollywood Division actually passed a back-up motion that if the Unit For Strength/ NY Division/ Regional Branches majority National Board chose not to act, then the Hollywood Division would come out with a statement of its own opposing the closure. After all, the MPTF is in their backyard and lots of their members depend on it. The protest group Saving The Lives Of Our Own, which is trying to be neutral in SAG’s rough-and-tumble internal politics, claims it had supporters from both SAG factions and hoped this was an issue that would bring everyone together. But the vote turned out to be shockingly closer than expected. I’m still trying to get the names of those who voted against opposing the MPTF long term care unit’s closure. Those people should be exposed.

SAG is the first of the showbiz guilds to publicly criticize the MPTF decision led by Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, Frank Mancuso and other Hollywood bigwigs to shutter the unit. But Saving The Lives Of Our Own is frustrated that the other unions — WGA, DGA, Teamsters and IATSE — haven’t gotten off their butts and expressed their support. True, prominent members of other Guilds, including the WGA like Larry Gelbart, have personally expressed opposition to the closure. But the WGA, whose Board Of Directors apparently meets tomorrow, has not. I know that organizers of Saving The Lives Of Our Own along with several WGA members, made presentations to WGAW President Patric Verrone and the Board months ago. But, for some reason, they chose not to take a public stand. Saving The Lives Of Our Own has been trying to rally grassroots support to pressure the WGA to do so ever since. Nor has there been any support from John Wells’ slate on this issue.

The MPTF’s long-term care facility in Woodland Hills is presently home to 84 elderly and other residents needing round-the-clock nursing care, many of whom have been suffering daily under threat of eviction, and 26 Alzheimer’s patients in the “Harry’s Haven” unit. The MPTF charity, established in 1921, was specifically founded to aid Industry members in tough economic times. Given that the MPTF was born out of the Depression to help its members receive medical care and survive in difficult times, the real question is whether Hollywood’s current generation is going to be the one to let that mission fail. Are things really worse now than they were in the 1930s? The MPTF should let the entertainment community come together and raise this money. It’s unconscionable that the powers-that-be there are not allowing donations earmarked for the long term care facility.

UPDATE: Here is the MPTF’s reaction from chairman of the board of directors Frank Mancuso:

WOODLAND HILLS, CA, July 26, 2009 – “We are disappointed by the action taken by the SAG Board but appreciate their willingness to hear our presentation and the support we received from the 48.26 percent of its members who voted against this resolution. We also appreciate SAG National Board of Directors’ President Alan Rosenberg’s acknowledgement of our ‘significant financial and operational concerns.’

“If MPTF does not close its long term care unit, which is losing nearly $1 million each month and transfer the 84 residents who currently reside there to highly qualified community nursing homes, the fund will go bankrupt within five years and all of our operations will be forced to close. We would no longer be able to provide services to SAG members who made 23,000 visits to our health centers and social workers last year or any of the 60,000 other industry members who rely on us for care. Nor would we be able to continue providing financial assistance to the entertainment industry, including the 214 SAG members who received financial aid from the Fund in 2008.

“The Board struggled to find a solution that would ensure the future stability of the Fund while allowing us to keep the long term care facility open. Sadly, after years of exploring alternatives, we came to the inescapable conclusion that the long term care unit had to close to protect the rest of the institution. It would be a disservice to our community to force into bankruptcy this indispensable organization simply because family members of the 84 people living in the facility prefer to have them remain there. We wish they could too. And were it financially feasible, the Board would insist on having them stay. But it is not.

“MPTF is not abandoning the 84 residents who remain in the long term care facility but we cannot and will not compromise the best interests of SAG’s membership and the rest of the 60,000 people we serve every year by keeping it open. This is the correct and only decision the Board could make. The long term care facility must close.”