More oppose SAG's quest

San Francisco unit asks to end drive against AFTRA pact

The blowback from SAG's decision to oppose the ratification of sister union AFTRA's agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers increased Monday.

SAG's San Francisco board sent the guild's president Alan Rosenberg and chief negotiator Doug Allen a message urging solidarity and asked that the campaign against AFTRA and its tentative primetime/TV deal with the majors end.

"The six-month commercials strike of 2000 taught our members, both SAG and AFTRA, the importance of strategy, as well as solidarity in achieving goals of paramount importance to our unions," the San Francisco board wrote.

SAG has urged its roughly 44,000 members who also are AFTRA card holders, to vote down the AFTRA agreement. The union's leaders said they can get a better deal and do not want to be constrained by AFTRA's contract.

In a letter to members sent Monday, Allen told members that voting down the AFTRA deal is not a vote for a strike.

"It makes a strike less likely because it will send the clear signal that working actors aren't satisfied with the AFTRA deal and, to get a deal, management will have to do better," Allen wrote. "It gives us more leverage, not less, at the negotiating table and makes it less likely we would have to consider the ultimate leverage of a strike. Any sane union leader wants to avoid a strike if at all possible.

"This is all about SAG's negotiations, not the internal operations of AFTRA," he added. "We are not interfering in their internal affairs."

Responding to Allen's comments, AFTRA said the letter to members is the "latest irresponsible effort ... intended only to mask the lack of progress in their own talks.
"AFTRA strongly maintains, and a growing number of actors agree, that the new AFTRA primetime television contract is a solid agreement that achieves economic gains for every category of performer and confirms new media jurisdiction," an AFTRA spokeswoman said.

SAG represents 90% of the shows in primetime and 100% of films, according to the union.

SAG's campaign is supported by members of SAG's Membership First faction, who state in a message on its Web site that "SAG has been the union that has set the standards for professional, working actors over the last 75 years, and through SAG's leadership, those standards are the highest in the world.

"AFTRA contracts have only met the same level of excellence when they have mirrored SAG contracts. When AFTRA has negotiated contracts on its own, it has always been to the detriment of the working actor," the group added.

But outside Membership First, there seems to be little support from regional members, including those in Chicago and New York. And several high-profile dual cardholders, including Tom Hanks, have signed on to a letter to AFTRA members stating why they are voting yes on the new contract.

"AFTRA has made a good deal. In fact, under the current circumstances, it's a very good deal," the letter states. "It benefits every working member, and will immediately put the industry back to work without rollbacks or the egregious concessions that producers were insisting on (and SAG has yet to overcome)."

The letter also suggests that the unions should revisit merging.

"SAG members were warned in 1998 and 2003 that if we didn't merge there would be jurisdictional war between SAG and AFTRA," the letter states. "But the anti-merger leaders -- the same individuals in charge right now -- insisted that the unions would simply keep negotiating cooperatively under the 'Phase One' agreement as they had always done."

That didn't happen. Before talks started up, AFTRA suspended its Phase One agreement that creates joint bargaining with SAG on the primetime/TV contracts.

SAG was first to the bargaining table April 15, but had to step aside May 6 to allow AFTRA to bargain with the studios. AFTRA said it had reached a deal with the AMPTP on May 28. That same day, SAG returned to negotiations.

SAG and studios completed their 36th day of negotiations Monday. Both sides are set to return to the bargaining table Tuesday.