Ratification ballots sent to SAG members

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After nearly 11 months of stalemate, ballots finally go out to SAG members today so they can decide whether to ratify the new TV/theatrical contract passed by the national board April 19.

The contract negotiations, hotly contested inside and outside the union, for a new Codified Basic Agreement have split the board and the membership for nearly a year. Opinions vary on whether the tentative deal will pass and by what margin — SAG president Alan Rosenberg unsurprisingly predicted its failure at a rally Sunday — but Yes and No campaigns kicked off in earnest during the weekend.

The Rosenberg-led No team, represented mostly by the MembershipFirst party, gathered Sunday in Griffith Park with deposed national executive director Doug Allen and a few dozen other supporters in attendance.

Meanwhile, the Yes coalition released an "I'm Voting Yes" video supporting passage that it posted on SAG's homepage and the guild's leadership sent an e-mail to members reminding them that the board and negotiating task force officially recommend the new contract. Current SAG leadership also has hired PR outfit the Saylor Co. to advise the union on matters including how to persuade the membership to vote for passage of the contract.

Ballots, which include pro and con statements, are due June 9 and will be tallied immediately.

In 2005, during the previous ratification vote, about 30% of the paid-up membership voted and passed the contract by a 76% tally. David Joliffe, former head of the defunct negotiating committee, has stated that his fellow opponents of the deal will have to drive up turnout if they want to defeat the proposal.

The reality is that not every SAG member has an immediate practical stake in the outcome of the vote or the tentative contract's terms. If 5% of the membership makes money in the millions and 85% of the membership makes less than $5,000 a year, it's the 10% of middle-class, working actors with the most to lose or gain whose fortunes will be affected in the short term.

Given the raises built into the contract and the beachhead achieved in new-media jurisdiction, this 10% would appear most likely to vote, and to vote Yes. Upper-tier stars and moneymakers are split philsophically because their incomes aren't affected significantly by the gains in the current contract offer. (partialdiff)
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