SAG-AFTRA Convention to Debate 35 Resolutions (Analysis)

SAG AFTRA One Union Logo - H 2012

SAG AFTRA One Union Logo - H 2012

Delegates will have a busy docket at the inaugural gathering, with several resolutions going to the heart of the union’s identity.

Delegates to SAG-AFTRA’s inaugural convention will find themselves with full plates, as their agenda will include no fewer than 35 separate resolutions, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. These are in addition to the seven constitutional amendments on the docket, on which THR exclusively reported earlier this month.

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The resolutions include:

* Set up procedures for alternates (Nos. 3, 8). SAG members – and now SAG-AFTRA members – have often been described as star struck in their voting patterns. That is, actors with higher name recognition are often more likely to win election as board members or officers. But therein lies a problem: those same actors are also more likely to be working and unavailable to attend meetings. For that reason, the inside baseball question of how alternates are selected, and by whom, has always loomed large in SAG politics, and now too in SAG-AFTRA’s.

* Local bank accounts (No. 4). Delegates from the Chicago local have proposed that individual locals be permitted to set up their own bank accounts (and also have a degree of budget autonomy). There is a similar constitutional amendment on the agenda, sponsored by 17 of the union’s 25 locals. Either one would mark a return to an AFTRA practice that several legacy SAG sources criticized as opening the door to disorganization and lack of financial controls criticized by auditors. Supporters argue that the inability to open local bank accounts disempowers locals and excessively centralizes power in the union’s national offices, located in Los Angeles and, secondarily, in New York.

Also in play is lingering anger at the union’s closure of 10 of its local offices. Several resolutions address office closure (Nos. 17-19).

When married couples fight about money, the true issues are often deeper, and the same is true here. Underlying the checkbook proposals are key questions that go to the core of SAG-AFTRA’s identity: did SAG and AFTRA merge as equals or did SAG take over its smaller rival; is SAG-AFTRA a “national union” or are Los Angeles and New York the only places that truly matter; and if so, do broadcasters (a key AFTRA constituency) matter in SAG-AFTRA?

The battle is likely to be heated.

* Remove “Executive” from title of Executive Vice President (No. 7). This resolution wins a prize for colorful language; it asserts that “Executive” should be struck from the title of the Executive Vice President because, among other things, that word inaccurately implies that the evp is a “Supervisor, Superintendent, Overseer, Master, Kingpin, Top Dog, Boss, Top Banana, Big Cheese, Head Honcho, (or) Mr. Big.” The word also, says the resolution, misallocates power, “like giving more power to Joe Biden over Barac(k) Obama, or Dick Cheney over George W. Bush.”

* Monitoring of elections (No. 11). This resolution asserts that “some SAG-AFTRA members are concerned about the fairness and accuracy of recent elections,” and proposes as a solution that a neutral outside monitor be engaged to monitor each national election at a cost of up to $100,000. SAG-AFTRA elections are already conducted by an outside tabulating firm, so this resolution would add a second outside entity to the mix.

* Background performers (Nos. 12, 13, 23, 24, 25). Background performers – “extras” – have been a significant part of SAG at least since that union’s merger with (or acquisition of) the Screen Extras Guild in 1992. They emerged as a key constituency of the anti-merger Membership 1st party. The first two resolutions are similar; each would establish guaranteed board seats for background performers in a manner analogous to other occupational categories (actor/performers, dancers, recording artists, stunt performers and broadcasters). The third one would establish a reserved background seat on the TV/theatrical contract negotiating committee. The fourth and fifth would change the way background perform gain entry into the union.

* Singer representation on the national board (No. 14). This resolution would establish a national board seat for singers who work in the movie and TV business (as contrasted with “recording artists,” who are singers who work in the music business).

* Additional reserved stunt performer convention delegates (No. 15). This would increase the number of convention delegate positions allocated to stunt performers.

* Publication of contract earnings reports (No. 31). SAG used to publish a more or less annual report of aggregate member session fees, residuals and background performer fees under the various SAG contracts (theatrical, TV, commercials, etc.). AFTRA did not, and neither does SAG-AFTRA. This resolution would restore the practice of publishing the report annually.

* Create building committee to investigate acquisition of 6121 Sunset Blvd. (No. 35). The union leases its Wilshire Blvd. headquarters, an arrangement that some Membership 1st members have criticized as wasteful. This resolution would create a committee to explore purchasing 6121 Sunset Blvd. as a headquarters. It’s not clear, however, that this particular building is for sale: an Oct. 2012 press report indicates that it was purchased by a developer as the centerpiece in a $235 million development.

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