Today, the SAG National Board, with AMPTP, approved the terms of new 2-year contracts covering members working in Television Animation and Basic Cable Animation. That pact was not sent to the membership for a vote, amazing as that sounds. On the other hand, the Basic Cable live action tentative agreement is out to SAG members now, and ballots must be received by August 26th. But the secrecy that pervades the actions by the current SAG National Majority — consisting of Unite For Strength on the Hollywood Board, United Screen Actors Nationwide in the NY Division, and United Union Performers controlling the Regional Branches — just keeps continuing. I’ve learned that, originally, senior staff, UFS, NY and the RBD did not want to send the Basic Cable live action contract out to the membership for a vote. Led by Sam Freed, Ned Vaughn and David Hartley Margolin, the SAG National Majority wanted to bypass the membership, ignore the constitution, and approve a contract that no more than 1/3 of the board members understood or saw in print.
They wanted only the board to approve the contract which is a clear violation of the SAG constitution. (It states that “membership ratification shall not be required for any collective bargaining agreement which the Board Of Directors determines in good faith is not to be used in widespread or industry-wide application affecting a substantial portion of the membership, such as agreements covering low-budgets films, student films, or the like and interim contracts of short duration. Such agreements shall, however, be approved by a supermajority of 60% of the Board of Directors or National Executive Committee voting thereon.” Article XI, Section 2).
The Animation Contract falls under Article XI Section 2, and has always been ratified by the Board or NEC, but then only after caucuses are held to get input from the SAG community. In this case, SAG held video and teleconference caucuses around the country: two in LA, and one in NY, Miami, Chicago and San Francisco.
By contrast, the Basic Cable live action contract fails to fall under Article XI Section 2. It is not only industry-wide, it was negotiated by Carole Lombardini of the AMPTP. SAG chief negotiator John McGuire, and Interim National Executive Director David White, and others wanted to convince the board that it was not industry-wide and was more like SAG’s animation or industrial contracts. Which is bullshit.
One of their other arguments of the SAG National Majority was that, back in 2006, when SAG finally was able to re-negotiate the Basic Cable contract after 22 years, the big actors union didn’t send it out to the members. Instead, SAG held exhaustive caucuses with the members, wages&working committee meetings, a 91% strike authorization vote nationally, an an overwhelming approval by the national board surpassing the required 60% threshold.
Yet another argument was posed by Unite For Strength leader Ned Vaughn, who claimed internally that the membership already had voted on the Basic Cable contract when they voted up the TV/Theatrical pact. HUH? The two contracts have completely different residual structures.
I’m told a Membership First member — some sources tell me it was David Jolliffe — stood up and asked board members to raise their hands if they knew what was the residual structure of the Basic Cable agreement. No one from UFS or the Regional Branches raised their hands. Only a few from the NY Division. Yet 6 of 7 hands from the Membership First people went up out of 70 board members.
Senior staff didn’t even provide a copy of the agreement for each board member to go over before the vote.
This sure sounds like the board was about to be railroaded. (I can’t confirm conspiracy-spinning emails claiming the AMPTP’s Carol Lombardini was guaranteed a quick “yes” vote from the SAG National Majority.)
Membership First demanded that the contract be sent out for ratification — and won, but not without a huge fight. Because the UFS, NY and Regional members of the SAG National Majority were prepared to take away the members right to vote. I’ve been trying to lift the veil of secrecy imposed by the current UFS-NYD-RBD coalition, and just thought SAG members needed to know this.