SAG, Sandra Oh go 'robo'

'Grey's Anatomy' star records message for the union

SAG members answering the phone Wednesday might have heard a familiar voice on the other end: Sandra Oh.

The "Grey's Anatomy" star and guild member recorded a so-called "robo" message for the union urging dual SAG and AFTRA members to vote down the tentative AFTRA primetime TV contract. Calls were placed to members throughout Wednesday afternoon, and similar messages are expected to be placed during the next week.

SAG enters its 34th day of negotiations todaywith the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers and has accused AFTRA's deal with the studios of distracting the current talks.

SAG also contends that AFTRA's contract falls short in several areas, including actor rates, new media and clip consent.

"What AFTRA did was take the DGA proposal essentially without change," SAG chief negotiator and national executive director Doug Allen told Back Stage West. "What they did in new media is precisely what the DGA ended up with and not at all what AFTRA and SAG proposed initially or where SAG is in our proposal today."

In an e-mail to national board members and alternates, Allen said the automated calls were part of an effort to educate members on the AFTRA contract. The guild also has set up a voicemail and box for recipients of the calls to leave comments.

Oh's message comes a week after James Cromwell recorded a message sent automatically to AFTRA members. The actor also has lent his face and name to AFTRA's "Vote Yes" campaign along with Sally Field, Jane Curtin and Stephen Collins.

On Tuesday, AFTRA mailed out to members an official ballot, indicating either a yes or no answer to "I approve the 2008-2011 Exhibit A to the AFTRA Network Television Code," along with a 13-page rundown of the tentative deal with the AMPTP.

"Upon ratification by you, the new contract immediately puts real money in performers' wallets and protects future earnings as the industry evolves," AFTRA president Roberta Reardon and national executive director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth wrote in a letter included in the ballot materials.

The union plans to follow up by visiting AFTRA sets, robo and member-to-member phone calls, mailings, video testimonials posted on AFTRA's Web site and on YouTube and local meetings, house parties and two large informational meetings at its Los Angeles headquarters Saturday and Monday.

Ballots are due no later than July 8, with results expected the next day.

The sluggish talks between SAG and the AMPTP might in part be because the union is waiting to see how AFTRA members vote on the proposed deal.