Ahead of talks, SAG sidelines petition


SAG has made one last effort to jointly negotiate with AFTRA at the upcoming talks set for Tuesday.

On Sunday, 81% of the union's national board passed a resolution inviting AFTRA back to the table. The resolution states "that AFTRA be given the opportunity to join Screen Actors Guild in Phase I joint negotiations, provided that notice of acceptance is received within 72 hours."

AFTRA declined comment on the resolution Sunday. The resolution comes after AFTRA decided to break off its 27-year joint bargaining agreement on the primetime TV contract with SAG and negotiate with producers on its own. The two unions had been working on proposals to bring to the bargaining table for six weeks prior to AFTRA's decision.

SAG's national board also has sidelined attempts by a faction of members that would have limited voting on the upcoming TV/film contract, as well as any strike authorization.

On Saturday, the board voted 60-40 to send the proposal to a review committee to study, ending any chance of it affecting the upcoming negotiations with producers, which start Tuesday.

The petition drive, led by actor Ned Vaughn and signed by more than 1,500 members, lobbied for an earnings threshold requirement for qualified voting. SAG president Alan Rosenberg has said he opposed the petition, believing it would divide the union rather than unite them as they enter talks on their contract, which expires June 30.

On Saturday, Rosenberg sent a letter to SAG's 120,000 members outlining the issues the union's negotiators will bring to the table in the upcoming talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. Rosenberg particularly focused on the plight of the middle-class actor.

"We now have to work more just to make what we earned a few years ago," he wrote. "Favored nations salaries for guest stars and featured actors are now the norm, and most actors can't get the (individual salary) that they could a year ago."

He added, "It's a 'take it or leave it' world, and many will have to leave the business for other work if the downward trends continue."

The future of acting is in new media, Rosenberg said, which is among the priorities SAG looks to negotiate in its comprehensive proposal.

"Our proposal also recognizes the economics of producing for various new-media formats and enables our employers to compete in this new space," he wrote. "Our proposals contain an equitable and simple answer to the question of how producers should pay residuals when television programs and theatrical motion pictures are exhibited on new-media formats."

The producers are expected to offer compensation for new media along the lines of its recent agreements with the DGA and WGA. The AMPTP said last week in an open letter that it wants to "share fairly" the revenue generated from new media and other areas of the industry's talent.

The producers consider the new contracts "new economic partnerships" but feel it's necessary to allow breathing room to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape of markets and technologies.

"Too many industries have failed to respond quickly enough to these changes, and we are determined to position our businesses -- and the employees and shareholders who rely on them -- to succeed and grow in this challenging environment," the AMPTP stated.

Along with new media, SAG wants an increase in minimums and the residual formula for DVD/home video. It also seeks to improve health and pension benefits and address what it calls "the alarming trend of 'forced endorsement' " with product integration.

SAG's proposals also include improvements for major role actors, who the union said have been impacted by cost-cutting industry practices. For background actors, SAG has proposals it says are "designed to rectify the historic inequities faced by background actors, whose contributions continue to be inadequately recognized in our contract."

Town hall meetings for members on updates in the negotiations are set for April 29 in Los Angeles and April 30 in New York.
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