So What Do SAG Election Results Mean?

Here is my analysis of the SAG election results, plus I’ve been given the official Unite For Strength and Membership First statements below:  

The results of the SAG vote elected an equal number of Membership First candidates and Unite For Strength candidates — 5 to 5 — onto the 33-strong National Board from the Hollywood division. For MF, JoBeth Williams, Scott Bakula, Lainie Kazan, Keith Carradine and Joely Fisher won three-year terms. For U4S, Amy Brenneman, Adam Arkin, Ken Howard, Pamela Reed and Kate Walsh also won three-year terms. The 11th elected National Board member was Morgan Fairchild who ran as an Independent and also won a three-year term. It’s expected that she will vote with U4S which endorsed her candidacy.

Before the election, the makeup of the SAG National Board from the Hollywood division used to be 32 MF members, plus Morgan Fairchild as an Independent. After the election, it’s 27 MF members, 5 U4S members, and 1 Independent.

Inside the New York Division, little has changed because of the election: it’s always been overwhelmingly anti-MF. But that also doesn’t mean that the 5 newly elected full SAG National Board members with three-year terms will vote 100% with U4S. Because many of the NYD candidates campaigned on a different slate, such as USAN, or Restore Respect. But, like U4S, most oppose MF’s Hollywood-centric politics as well as blame MF for all the SAG-AFTRA bashing.

Finally, seven SAG National Board members were elected from the Regional Branch Divisions and, again, it’s unclear how many will vote 100% of the time with U4S. Tonight I heard that MF is counting on three to vote at least part of the time with them.

So, if you count the new U4S full National Board members from the Hollywood Division, and if you assume all the other full National Board members from the NY Division and the Regional Branch Divisions will vote 100% of the time with U4S, then this gives U4S a razor-thin majority now on the guild’s 71-member governing body. But those are big ifs (which of course Dave McNary’s simpleton Variety story fails to point out…)

Would this affect SAG’s current contract negotiations with the AMPTP? I don’t see how, especially considering July’s unanimous board endorsement of SAG’s position on New Media jurisdiction. Nor does it affect the makeup of SAG’s negotiating committee. “The election changes nothing,” one MF’er told me tonight. “The employers are still going to deal with the same people across the table.”

However, during the campaign, U4S supporters claimed they could influence the SAG National Board to change the makeup of the negotiating committee. But to do so would require changing the guild’s constitution, and that can’t be done without a 2/3’s vote, which neither MF nor U4S have. Of course, the national board could disband SAG’s bargaining group and take over themselves. But that would mean 73 people (including president Alan Rosenberg and secretary/treasurer Connie Stevens) in the talks — which seems unwieldly and therefore impractical. So if each division gets to choose new members on the board, then the Hollywood division would still have the numbers majority because it’s based on earnings and demographics.

U4S from the Hollywood division picked up strength in the category of SAG National Board alternates — 5 more alternates than MF. But I’m told the alternates don’t conduct national board business unless they’re invited to fill in for a full member.

The breakdown of the alternates for MF is Joe Bologna, Clancy Brown, Alan Ruck, Jane Austin, France Nuyen, Anthony DeSantis, Eugene Boggs, Charles Shaughnessy and Yale Summers.  The U4S alternates are Marcia Wallace, Dule Hill, Doug Savant, Gabrielle Carteris, Clyde Kusatsu, L Scott Caldwell, Ashley Crow, Ned Vaughn, Richard Speight Jr, Stacey Travis, Tim DeKay, Bill Smitrovich, and Assaf Cohen.

Ned Vaughn, who acted as U4S’s de facto leader during the campaign, was elected only a National Board alternate, so it’s expected that a U4S full member of the National Board will take his place as the slate’s leader now — probably Amy Brenneman (the biggest vote-getter) or Adamm Arkin (the 2nd biggest vote-getter), or Ken Howard (who took a leadership role right behind Vaughn), or Pamela Reed. Conventional wisdom has it that Kate Walsh may not want to be the U4S spokesperson because her husband is a major studio executive: Alex Young, production co-president at Twentieth Century Fox. (I know this sounds sexist…)

Those elected as SAG National Board alternates from the New York Division include newcomer Eric Bogosian, an Independent. It’s thought that he may vote more with MF than against it unlike the NYD’s 8 other alternates.

I feel the wins by U4S and like-minded slates have more to do with AFTRA than anything. I opined here that MF was making a tactical mistake fighting publicly with AFTRA, especially when SAG leaders campaigned to sink AFTRA’s new contract with the AMPTP. I felt each guild should be sovereign not interfere in the other’s affairs. On the other hand, I felt it wrong for AFTRA to break off joint negotiations with SAG because it only benefitted the AMPTP’s divide and conquer strategy against both unions. AFTRA got a lousy contract because of it. Not only have SAG members made clear in the postcard poll they want a better one, but also SAG’s National Board members.

I just hope MF and U4S can now unite about trying to get a richer deal. Because SAG has to start speaking with one voice again. Solidarity against the AMPTP is now or never.

Here is Unite for Strength’s Ned Vaughn on the election results: “We offered members a clear choice in this election – end the fighting with AFTRA and instead partner with them to create a stronger union for performers. The results in this unusually high turnout election leave no doubt that is what the members want. We look forward to working with all of our colleagues on the board to move SAG in this new direction.”

Here is Membership First’s Anne Marie Johnson on the election results: “We appreciate and thank everyone who voted. Analyzing the results shows there was no mandate for either slate. Membership First still retains control of the Hollywood Division board and still controls the vote on the negotiating committee.

“Membership First still holds firm on what we believe are issues that are imperative for our members of the Screen Actors Guild. Those issues are: holding firm on force majeure, holding firm on jurisidoction from dollar one in New Media, holding firm on residuals for product made for New Media, and holding firm on product integration. And we look forward to the new national board members realizing (once they’ve actually spent time in a boardroom) that what we are fighting for is the right thing for the Screen Actors Guild.

“AFTRA on their own starting in 2006 began a campaign of undercutting contracts in order to place more money in their coffers and secure jurisdictions at the expense of the well-being of the actors. As the postcard poll has indicated, Membership First will continue to fight to maintain fair wages and working conditions for our members no matter what.”

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