SAG battling continues through balloting


The Screen Actors Guild – at least, the faction with a majority on the National Board – is promoting a “yes” vote on SAG’s pending contract with the Hollywood studios, using big name actors in an “I’m Voting Yes” video. Meanwhile, SAG’s President and his fellow hardliners are promoting a “no” vote.

Alan Rosenberg is still President of SAG, but he no longer has control of the union’s website, so you won’t find any statement from him there on the contract vote and you won’t see him appearing in any videos produced with the approval of the National Board majority. But that hasn’t stopped Rosenberg from speaking out against the contract. He was at a recent rally in Los Angeles to oppose the pending contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and urge members to return their ballots with a “no” vote.

A blog maintained by the anti-contract Membership First faction of SAG has this to say: “It’s a devastating deal for all actors. Not only in the short term, but worse, in the long term: Because this is the first contract to cover New Media/the Internet, the payments we agree to in this contract will be with us for decades. For yourself, for older actors, and for the next generation, please vote NO.” And, while the dissidents don’t control the SAG website, they can still post on YouTube.

Meanwhile, 34 members of SAG, including some big name actors, are featured in a new video on the official union website proclaiming “I’m Voting Yes.” It too is on YouTube as well.

In promoting a “yes” vote, the union leadership says the two-year TV/theatrical agreement includes an immediate increase in wages of 3%, followed by another 3.5% increase next year. Negotiators also achieved an additional .5% in pension contributions, the union said, raising the total pension and health producer contribution to 15%. Background actor’s jobs will go from 19 to 20 in television in the Western Zone, and up to 55 from 50 in motion pictures. The tentative contract also establishes rates and working conditions for new media platforms, including provisions for residuals in made-for-new media programs, and residuals for streaming and downloading of features and television shows.

Opponents charge, among other things, that actors on shows made for new media and shown on ad-supported sites (Hulu and the like) will receive zero residuals and studios can use non-union actors in new media shows with SAG’s blessing.

The new media provisions had been the main sticking point in the talks between SAG and AMPTP, which had been deadlocked since last year until the more Moderate Unite for Strength faction won a majority of seats on the National Board and seized power from the Membership First hardliners.

RBR/TVBR observation: As is the case in so many elections and referendums, voter turnout is key. We note that the Commercials Contract ratified last week by SAG and AFTRA members had ballots returned by only 28% of the union members eligible to vote. Ratification of the new contract for TV/movie acting is by no means assured if the anti-contract faction is effective in getting members to actually send in their ballots.