Globes in clear, Oscars are in its sights

That whooshing sound you heard Wednesday morning was the collective sigh of relief emanating from the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., whose Golden Globes ceremony Jan. 11 is now spared by the timing of SAG's strike-authorization voting.

The Oscars? Mmm, not so much.

SAG leadership has notified its members that ballots will be mailed to them Friday, Jan. 2. Those votes will be tabulated at Integrity Voting Systems in Everett, Wash., on Jan. 23.

Only those of the 120,000-strong SAG membership who are paid in full at that time can vote on the measure that, if passed, would give the guild's national board of directors the authority to call a strike. At least 75% of those voting would have to respond "yes" for the measure to pass.

"SAG members understand that their futures as professional actors are at stake," SAG national president Alan Rosenberg said, "and I believe that SAG members will evaluate the AMPTP's June 30 offer and vote to send us back to the table with the threat of a strike. A 'yes' vote sends a strong message that we are serious about fending off rollbacks and getting what is fair for actors in new media."

With the annual SAG Awards airing Jan. 25 on TNT, a quick tally would allow the leadership to use the public forum for any further proselytizing pursuant to the vote's results.

Additionally, the guild leadership held bicoastal meetings Wednesday with representatives of the PR and management communities to inform them of the status of negotiations and the strike authorization. One person at the Los Angeles meeting said that the 30 or so attendees represented all of the major PR firms and several boutiques.

According to this observer, the SAG reps used the two-hour forum to explain the purpose of the authorization vote and the history of its use in other SAG labor disputes but did not discuss any potential boycott actions that could involve the reps' talent clients or awards ceremonies.

The Feb. 22 Oscars would symbolize a kind of nuclear option should the guild persuade its members not to show up. A spokesperson for the Academy said it is committed to presenting the Oscars as scheduled.

Last year's Globes ceremony was crippled by the actors' offscreen support of the writers strike. Although the WGA contract resolution occurred in time to spare the Oscars, the show's producers were desperately preparing a Plan B that would consist mostly of a clip history of the show.

The two sides in the labor dispute — SAG and the companies, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — have been at an impasse since July. The participation of a federal mediator in October and November did not bring about a resolution.

In waiting until the new year, SAG leaders expressed a desire to avoid burdening members with the decision over the holidays and to give themselves more time to persuade members of its justification. Among other things, this means that January's Globes will not be affected.

"We will continue our comprehensive education campaign and urge our members to vote 'yes' on the strike authorization," national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen said. "I am confident that members around the country will empower our negotiating team with the leverage and strength of unified Screen Actors Guild members. Our objective remains to get a deal that SAG members will ratify — not to go on strike."

The AMPTP quickly responded: "It's now official: SAG members are going to be asked to bail out a failed negotiating strategy by going on strike during one of the worst economic crises in history. We hope that working actors will study our contract offer carefully and come to the conclusion that no strike can solve the problems that have been created by SAG's own failed negotiation strategy." (partialdiff)