Upstart SAG faction has A-list backing

Tom Hanks, Sally Field among Unite for Strength supporters

Unite for Strength, the SAG faction bent on replacing the guild's current leadership, has rolled out a list of several actors, including Tom Hanks and Sally Field, who support the group's slate of candidates in the national board elections.

Alec Baldwin, Lewis Black, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ron Perlman were among those signing on to an e-mail sent Wednesday by Field to SAG Hollywood division members urging support against the current majority, known as MembershipFirst. Unite for Strength has been critical of that group's handling of the stalemated talks with the studios, in particular its decision to oppose ratification of AFTRA's pact with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

An unprecedented 84 candidates are vying for 11 seats on the national board, along with 22 alternates. Votes are due Sept. 18.

Among the MembershipFirst candidates are Joely Fisher, Keith Carradine, Scott Bakula and Joe Bologna. United for Strength candidates include Ned Vaughn, Amy Brenneman, Kate Walsh and Doug Savant.

Field, who is not running for the board, had harsh words for MembershipFirst, saying that in her 43 years as a member, she for the first time doubted the union's leadership.

She cited what she described as the hostile campaign against sister union AFTRA, which ended a 27-year joint bargaining agreement with SAG before hammering out its own deal with the AMPTP. SAG's contract expired June 30, the day the studios delivered a "final offer" that essentially mirrored that accepted by AFTRA and broke off formal talks.

"And so here we are, negotiating on our own with diminished leverage against a united front of media conglomerates," Field wrote. "Is this what we want for our future? If this leadership stays in place, the bad relations with AFTRA will persist and we'll continue to negotiate contracts from a position of division and weakness."

MembershipFirst member Anne-Marie Johnson said her group is correct in holding out for a better deal.

"We're always appreciative of our higher level members getting involved," she said. "It's just disappointing that these individuals would rather the guild accept a bad deal then hold firm on a deal that could possibly benefit middle-class actors.

"Had we taken (the AMPTP's offer), we would be unfortunately stuck with issues that we probably could not revisit, especially in the area of residuals for product made for new media. We're not satisfied with a proposal that denies performers residuals in an area that we basically know will take over as TV."

On Tuesday, SAG national executive director Doug Allen sent members an e-mail noting that a statement in support of "a group of candidates for the current election" had used a regional branch division membership e-mail list to reach out to members.

Allen warned that federal law and guild election rules prohibit such communication through guild resources. "You should be assured that any communication using SAG e-mail lists does not reflect an endorsement of any candidate or slate of candidates," he wrote.
comments powered by Disqus