AFTRA, SAG back in the rough


The truce between AFTRA and SAG is fraying.

On Saturday, AFTRA chair Matt Kimbrough apologized to his union's members for being looped in with a resolution issued the day before via SAG, which stated that both unions were "jointly" working on wages and working condition proposals and standing firm that they will follow the leadership in deciding when to start formal talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

Kimbrough said the resolution "was erroneous and unfortunately does not accurately represent the current state of affairs between SAG and AFTRA."

He added, "SAG and AFTRA are not at this point 'jointly' participating in the wages and working conditions process for the upcoming primetime negotiations. We are merely co-hosting these meetings."

Kimbrough explained that in order to complete the wages and working conditions committee process by Friday and avoid a "lengthy discussion," he allowed misleading language that misrepresents AFTRA to remain in the resolution.

"I regret that I did not object to this language at the time," he said.

Since 1981, SAG and AFTRA have jointly bargained primetime contracts, splitting negotiating committee seats 50-50. However, a recent rift between the two actors unions had jeopardized the guilds' ability to present a unified bargaining front.

SAG had been in the process of staging a membership referendum that would have changed the voting process for contract talks. AFTRA responded by declaring the guild had broken its agreement, which gave its union officials permission to begin talks with producers on its own. AFTRA also successfully lobbied the AFL-CIO for its own charter.

But in early February, the two unions appeared to be on track to patching up their rift and going forward with the joint member meetings to draft proposals.

SAG president Alan Rosenberg responded Sunday to Kimbrough, saying the resolution might have been facilitated by SAG but it was a product of a unanimous committee made up of dozens of SAG and AFTRA members.

"It is perplexing that an AFTRA national officer would repudiate a statement of unity, support for the process of working together and confidence in the leadership of both unions," Rosenberg said. "It is up to Matt Kimbrough to explain why he has repudiated the work of his own members engaged in the process of preparing for negotiations."

Kimbrough's position may be an attempt to distance AFTRA from "an internal political battle" within SAG between the Hollywood and New York branches — the latter of which had been opposed to SAG's attempt to change the voting with AFTRA and has traditionally been more moderate than its Hollywood counterparts.

"AFTRA has no interest in being caught up in SAG's internal battles, and I am troubled by the inaccurate rhetoric that distorts the state of our current relationship with each other," Kimbrough said. "The fact is that the overwhelming majority of AFTRA leadership believes we have a responsibility to proceed with negotiations as soon as possible. I share that belief."

On Thursday, SAG's New York board issued a resolution urging the guild's national leaders to start talks with the AMPTP now, rather than wait until the end of March.

"Instead of dealing with the critical business of the negotiations, SAG [Hollywood] leadership is wasting time on political maneuvering," said Sam Freed, SAG's N.Y. President and 2nd National VP.

But Rosenberg and SAG executive director Doug Allen have said the union would continue with the formal process, which means that formal talks with producers will begin in March at the earliest.