2ND UPDATE: Hollywood can most likely expect a quick and easy negotiation when the Screen Actors Guild joins with AFTRA to negotiate with the studios and networks starting Monday. It also looks more than likely that SAG will merge with AFTRA soon. That’s because the so-called pro-moderation and pro-merger SAG National Majority — consisting of Unite For Strength (U4S) based in Hollywood and the United Screen Actors Nationwide (USAN) consisting of the NY Division and Regional reps — today strengthened its grip over the big actors union. Usually, those SAG candidates who are also well-known actors fare better in these guild elections. But today’s election results show that rival faction Membership First lost all 13 of its open seats on the 71-member national board, including such well-known incumbents as controversial ex-SAG president Alan Rosenberg, Nancy Sinatra, Valerie Harper, Frances Fisher, and Esai Morales. (Harper and Morales are Alternates.)
So, at least among the small percentage of SAG’s 125,000 membership that actually sent in ballots (less than in recent years), this was a clear repudiation of Membership First’s years of pursuing a hardball negotiating strategy against the AMPTP and a hardline stand against SAG merging with AFTRA.
Now U4S, which came to power just 2 years ago, and its national majority coalition have extended their margin of control over SAG’s policy-setting National Board to about 80% of the votes. UFS will also assume control of the Guild’s Hollywood Division Board, with 75% of the votes. Its better-known winning candidates included Ron Perlman, Gabrielle Carteris, Jeff Garlin, Michael O’Keefe for 3-year terms, and DW Moffett with a 1-year term.
“SAG members have spoken decisively and what they’re saying couldn’t be more clear – they voted for merger,” SAG president Ken Howard, a U4S member, said in a U4S-issued statement after election results were announced. “I’m looking forward to working with all the re-elected and newly elected board members, and our partners at AFTRA, to make one union happen.”
U4S leader Ned Vaughn, who remains just an Alternate for the SAG National Board, called it a “landslide affirmation of Unite for Strength’s goal of uniting SAG and AFTRA as a single performers’ union.” He noted that SAG’s Hollywood Division members today elected 13 U4S candidates to serve on the Guild’s National Board of Directors, and another 20 of the group’s candidates to serve on the SAG Hollywood Board. U4S candidates won 33 of the 35 total seats at stake in Hollywood. “All the candidates elected in the Guild’s New York and Regional Branch Divisions also support the move to one union.”
This coming Monday, SAG and AFTRA will begin jointly bargaining their TV/Theatrical Contract with the AMPTP for 7 weeks, followed by the DGA in mid-November. No date has yet been set for the WGA, whose contract ends May 1, 2011, but the moguls and the AMPTP intend to negotiate with the writers last to ensure there’s the most Hollywood pressure on them. At present, SAG/AFTRA and the DGA are trading information, but not with the WGA despite last year’s talk about all the Hollywood guilds cooperating. Both SAG/AFTRA and the DGA have made it their priority to achieve gains in health and pension, and much less so in wages and New Media. This, despite the fact that Big Media just reported bigger profits this past quarter and better forecasts for the rest of 2010 and also 2011.
The major election issue this time around was exactly how actors should be unionized. U4S and USAN are content to join with AFTRA as is and become one union. However, Membership First has long opposed a combined union with AFTRA because the smaller predominantly represents broadcasters and is simple to join. MF believes that instead all actors should belong to one big union.
But MF was demoralized and disorganized during this latest campaign so it’s no surprise it lost further ground. This was also the first SAG election under the non-disparagement gag order with AFTRA. So any open debate was nonexistent. Even the hot button issue of the SAG National Majority standing idly by last spring while AFTRA poached 38 new broadcast scripted TV series for the 2010-2011 season, compared to SAG’s single new show, never received attention. (more…)