100 actors back vote to ratify AFTRA pact

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SAG celebrated its 75th anniversary during the weekend in the face of a grim reality: There are only eight days left to negotiate a deal with the major producers and studios before its TV/theatrical contract expires.

Adding to the headaches for SAG's leadership, its campaign against ratification of the tentative deal cut by sister union AFTRA —nearly 40,000 actors are in both unions — was undercut over the weekend when Tom Hanks became the most high-profile member to sign an e-mail message from more than 100 actors urging a yes vote on the AFTRA contract.

So far, little progress has been made in the negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, and SAG's chief negotiator Doug Allen has indicated he expects the talks to extend past the June 30 deadline.

Many in the industry speculate that SAG has slowed the negotiations process in order to see what happens with its "Vote No" campaign against sister union AFTRA's recently brokered primetime/TV contract. The AMPTP has blamed SAG's preoccupation with voting down the AFTRA contract as the reason for the slow progress.

"The negotiations stalled at almost the exact time that SAG began its anti-AFTRA campaign, and they're clearly focused on waiting until July 7 to see the results of the ratification vote," the studios said in a statement.

But others say the AMPTP is the one dragging its feet and that by not simply offering SAG the AFTRA contract, and forcing the actors union to "bargain up" to what AFTRA got in its deal, it has slowed the pace of talks.

"Despite their protests otherwise, management is trying to slow the process," Allen said in a statement Sunday. "The amount of time we spend bargaining is not the issue; the issue is management's resistance to putting reasonable proposals on the table."

The AMPTP could offer SAG a settlement proposal comparable to the AFTRA deal in the 11th hour, but the guild's campaign against the AFTRA contract makes it unlikely that would bring about a deal. If no deal is reached before the SAG contract expires, the guild will likely extend its contract. It has not sought a strike authorization from its membership.

The "AFTRA Contract Referendum" e-mail that went out over the weekend makes a case for why the 100-plus actors are voting yes.

"It benefits every working member, and will immediately put the industry back to work without rollbacks or the egregious concessions that producers were insisting on (and SAG has yet to overcome) and it sets the stage for future negotiations.

"More importantly, we are voting yes because if this contract doesn't pass, it will set us back to a place from which we may not recover," the message adds.

Others signing the e-mail include Jeffrey Tambor, James Cromwell, Tim Daly, Mike Farrell, Morgan Fairchild and Sam Freed, who is SAG's second national vp and a member of the current negotiating committee.

It's not the first time Hanks' name has come up during the tense negotiations. When SAG returned to the bargaining table May 28, following AFTRA and the AMPTP reaching a tentative deal, an e-mail from SAG board member Susan Savage was circulated that mentioned Hanks and George Clooney. Many interpreted the message to indicate that Hanks and Clooney were in support of an anti-AFTRA campaign. Both actors, through their reps, denied the claim, calling it a "fabrication," and Savage has since apologized.

Meanwhile, another member of the negotiating committee, Anne Marie Johnson, has defended the committee in an e-mail, stating that the members are "working hard every day to negotiate a good contract for SAG members" and that the AMPTP are taking them seriously.
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