Tuesday, December 23, 2008


SAG MESSAGE from Doug Allen, dated 12/23/08:

Dear Screen Actors Guild Member, A number of National Board members have expressed concern about the organized opposition to SAG’s vote “yes” campaign to encourage members to authorize the National Board to determine whether to call a strike in the TV/Theatrical contracts. While almost 100 high profile members and 2524 total members have endorsed the strike authorization vote mandated by the National Board, more than 100 high profile actors and 1373 actors have lent their names to the opposition campaign. This division does not help our effort to get an agreement from the AMPTP that our members will ratify.Accordingly, President Rosenberg and I have decided to call a special face-to-face National Board meeting in Los Angeles, during the week of January 12, to discuss how we can address this unfortunate division and restore the consensus demonstrated by the National Board at our October meeting.The Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and the Commercials Contract W&W plenary in New York the first week of January, preclude scheduling such a meeting before the week of January 12. In accordance with our Constitution, this special meeting will constitute one of our two face-to-face plenary meetings for 2009.In light of the subject matter of this special meeting, the strike authorization balloting will be re-scheduled to take place over a three-week period immediately following this special board meeting. This will provide us with more time to conduct member education and outreach on the referendum before the balloting.This meeting will replace the January 24, 2009 plenary and will occur in Los Angeles all day January 12, and part of January 13. Sincerely,Doug AllenNational Executive Director and Chief Negotiator

Monday, December 15, 2008


re: strike authorization vote, Dec 15, 2008

To: Alan Rosenberg, PresidentDoug Allen, National Executive DirectorMichelle Bennet, Director of GovernanceAnne Marie Johnson, 1st National VPSam Freed, 2nd National VPDavid Hartley Margolin, 3rd National VP Dear SAG Board Members, officers and staff:

We feel very strongly that SAG members should not vote to authorize a strike at this time. We don’t think that an authorization can be looked at as merely a bargaining tool. It must be looked at as what it is — an agreement to strike if negotiations fail.We support our union and we support the issues we’re fighting for, but we do not believe in all good conscience that now is the time to be putting people out of work.None of our friends in the other unions are truly happy with the deals they made in their negotiations. Three years from now all the union contracts will be up again at roughly the same time. At that point if we plan and work together with our sister unions we will have incredible leverage.As hard as it may be to wait those three years under an imperfect agreement, we believe this is what we must do. We think that a public statement should be made by SAG recognizing that although this is not a deal we want, it is simply not a time when our union wants to have any part in creating more economic hardship while so many people are already suffering.Let’s take the high road. Let’s unite with our brothers and sisters in the entertainment community and prepare for the future, three years down the line. Then, together, let’s make a great deal.

Alan AldaJason AlexanderDave AnnableRenĂ© AuberjonoisDiane BakerBob BalabanAlec BaldwinWilliam Baldwin.Barbara BeckEd Begley, JrMaria BelloBarbara BossonBruce BoxleitnerJosh BrolinPierce BrosnanDavid BoreanazBlair BrownLizzy CaplanJennifer CarpenterSteve CarrellMark CassenErika ChristensenGeorge ClooneyGlenn CloseScott CohenJack ColemanStephen CollinsPeter CoyoteJames CromwellBilly CrystalMatt DamonTed DansonJames DarrenBruce DavisonJames DentonBrian DennehyDanny DeVitoCameron DiazGarret DillahuntLarry DorfMinnie DriverOlympia DukakisPatty DukeCharles S. Dutton.Shelley FabaresBill FagerbakkeMike FarrellSally FieldKate FlanneryMorgan FreemanJennifer GarnerTeri GarrMelissa GilbertSara GilbertJohn GoodmanChristopher GorhamHeather GrahamKelsey GrammerJennifer GreyMichael GrossChristopher GuestAnnabelle GurwitchMichael C. HallTom HanksTess HarperMariette HartleyEd HelmsMarilu HennerCheryl HinesFelicity HuffmanHelen HuntJeremy IronsKathryn JoostenCarol KaneDiane KeatonJamie KennedyMimi KennedyTR KnightSarah KnowltonJohn KrasinskiDiane LaneMichele LeeLucy LiuRob LoweTobey MaguireJanel MaloneyCamryn ManheimMarlee MatlinMelanie MayronAndrew McCarthyMary McCormackChris McDonaldNeal McDonoughRob McElhenneyEwan McGregorEva MendesDebra MessingHelen MirrenJames NaughtonEdward NortonMichael NouriGail O’GradyKaitlin OlsonSam PageEva Longoria ParkerAdrian PasdarSteve PasqualeRhea PerlmanJaimie PressleyJason RitterJohn SaxonWilliam SchallertAdam ScottTony ShalhoubArmin ShimermanChristian SlaterKevin SpaceyJerry SrokaMary SteenburgenMarcia StrassmanBrenda StrongDonald SutherlandKitty SwinkDavid TadmanJeffrey TamborCharlize TheronAlly WalkerTracey WalterBelinda WaymouthBradley Whitford.Lee WilkoffBrian WimmerKevin ZegersLouis Zoric



Like many or most of you, i have been struggling over the state of our union’s current negotiations and the upcoming ballot to authorize a strike. It is a very complex issue at a very complex time. I have received emails and missives from several people of integrity, representing several aspects of the thought process.For better or worse, here is my response. I offer it for your own thought process, neither to advocate for or against, but merely to weigh.Our Screen Actors Guild, from my perspective, is in a very precarious position. We have been for many years. We have internal fractures with factions that cannot seem to find common ground and often cannot find common courtesy. We have had long standing relationships, like our agency franchise agreements, lost. We have seen our relations with our sister union, AFTRA, equally degraded.Additionally, our industry is undergoing enormous seismic shifts. I’m sure I do not need to point out that the pillars of our television and film systems are crumbling. A new technology is emerging to challenge the traditional formats and models. We are finally becoming an industry of the 21st century, but we are still tenaciously holding to structures from the 1900’s - structures of production, distribution, accounting, financing, etc. the necessity for “professionals” in the entertainment industry is being constantly challenged.In a time when i believe all the creative unions should be sitting down with the producers and joining together to protect our mutual interest in keeping our industry professional and profitable, we instead pursue selfish self-interest and the marginalization of each other. We don’t need the outside world to destroy us, we can do it ourselves.However, SAG has a very current dilemna and it needs a resolution. To strike over issues that are real and legitimate, or not. Our best interests are not being represented with the current offer from producers and our reps feel that only austere behavior can move this negotiation forward. but the reality is that to do so, we would subject our entire industry to a work stoppage during the most catestrophic financial times in the last 50 years. Can SAG afford to be the nail in the coffin while being so close to being the corpse inside it?My personal feeling is - no. I cannot in good conscience vote to take a stand that i know will stop good men and women from earning their livings at this time. I cannot stand on a picket line and prevent grips and gaffers and technicians and operators and caterers and office staff from earning their livings. I can’t send jobs that should be under sag contracts scurrying over to the even worse conditions of an AFTRA contract. i cannot tell people who are struggling that i come first. I just cannot.What I am willing to do is accept a lesser contract and ride out these most turbulent of times. Or better yet, I would ask our reps to accept the best version of the current deal but only for an 18-24 month limit. At that time, SAG would have first and best crack at establishing a realistic contract going forward, instead of being the last guys into the pool. The DGA sets the bar in each negotiation and we get relegated to those perameters all the time. Let’s be the first union in going forward, instead of the last.Also, during those 2 years, we could and must focus on the two issues that diminish us the most - the vast internal chasm of our own union and the ever-growing gulf that divides us from ourselves in AFTRA. We must repair our houses. If our own ground is not firm, how can we possibly expect to make a stand for others? We have work to do, not work to stop.We can survive a few years of less than perfect compensation in order to do the hard work of mending our own broken bones. We need to support each other. We need to understand each other. And we need, more than ever to work together with our fellow creative artists to protect each other and our industry as a whole. That is the best and greatest work we can be doing right now. Not drawing lines in the sand over digital residuals.Yes, proper compensation is vital. Yes, there are issues to fight for. But we are not an army ready to stand alone right now. Nor are our allies ready to support us in that fight. So before we take arms, let’s pause and rally our troops, truly understand what we are fighting for and stand together. For that, we need time, focus and some very hard work.I am voting no to strike authorization for now. We have other work to do.I wish you all a happy, healthy, peaceful, successful holiday and i look to our new year, and our new country with optimism and hopefulness.

Your colleague,
Jason Alexander

Wednesday, December 10, 2008



LOS ANGELES, DECEMBER 10, 2008 -- Screen Actors Guild today announced that strike authorization ballots will be mailed to paid-up SAG members on Friday January 2, 2009, and will be tabulated on Friday, January 23. A yes vote by 75% of members voting is required to pass the measure, which would authorize SAG's national board of directors to call a strike, if and when the board determines it is necessary.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008



The Hollywood-centric “Membership First” faction that has controlled SAG’s National Board for most of the last five years chooses tactics - misinformation, tough talk, over-promising andineptitude – that have run our union into the ground. Blustering and posturing instead of negotiating have clearly painted us into a corner. One would hope repeated failure might have caused a bit of light to dawn, but no. Today, with the country in the most catastrophic economic condition since 1929 and our entire industry reeling, they want you to vote for a strike.

A strike? Now? Don’t we look foolish enough already?

Do they think it’s a way to somehow save face?

What it looks like to me:

After realizing their dream of controlling SAG, the Membership First-led leadership fired a bright, capable guy who had only recently been hired. They insisted there would be no penalty, but they were wrong; it cost us a bundle. Then, after searching for months for just the right replacement, they hired an Executive Director who spoke their language and had no experience in the business.

Their team in place, they set out to realize their agenda, which included bringing the agents back into the Franchise Agreement, getting a raise in DVD residuals, and their long-sought dream of destroying AFTRA.

Their first step was a high-handed approach to the agents, asserting SAG’s authority over all actor’s contracts and threatening legal action if they didn’t toe the line. You may have heard the laughter. Needless to say, our leaders didn’t broadcast the humiliating rejection that ensued, but, as you may have noticed, we still have no Franchise Agreement with the major agencies.

Raising DVD residuals (labeled a ‘non-starter’ by the AMPTP) had to wait until the ’08 contract negotiations, so the next order of business was to Swift-Boat AFTRA and get it out of the way. Our leaders started by bad-mouthing the smaller union, criticizing its contracts and organizing methods. Then they tried to intimidate AFTRA into becoming the neutered bystander in the upcoming negotiations with the AMPTP, claiming that the 50/50 deal made between SAG and AFTRA under the Phase One agreement almost 30 years ago was suddenly unfair.

Using every trick they could think of, including attempting to muscle the NY and Regional Branches of SAG into line, they pushed AFTRA to knuckle under. To their great surprise, AFTRA’s leaders called their bluff, refusing to accept less than the equal partnership thelong-honored agreement promised. Stunned by this surprisingly firm stand, SAG’s leaders backed down, claiming they hadn’t really meant it.

Subsequent disparagement and double-dealing by SAG leaders, however, resulted in AFTRA’s losing patience with the process. Deciding their negotiating partners were not trustworthy, AFTRA broke away and moved to meet with the AMPTP on its own. Caught flat-footed again, SAG quickly claimed the right to negotiate with the AMPTP first.

AFTRA agreed.

These talks, however, soon ground to a halt. Despite the fact that the WGA gave up on DVDs even before their strike and the DGA hadn’t brought them up, SAG negotiators placed the ‘non-starter’ DVD raise on the table. If that wasn’t trouble enough, they found themselves facing a complicated formula for New Media that both the DGA and WGA had already accepted.

Unwilling to acknowledge the years-long research on New Media done by the DGA and agreed to by the WGA, SAG chose to rely on tough talk and strident demands and fell on its face.

With SAG and the AMPTP now at an impasse, AFTRA sat down, worked with the DGA/WGA template and succeeded in negotiating a deal that improved on what SAG had been reaching for before their talks exploded, leaving SAG’s leadership with more egg on its face.

Still unable to see the rapidly fading light, SAG went back to the AMPTP and tried again to demand a deal that would have required the other side to renegotiate the agreements already reached with the DGA, WGA and now AFTRA. SAG would do anything, it appeared, but realize its mistakes.

Instead, it took the most illogical step available and tried to torpedo acceptance of the AFTRA contract by its members, most of whom hold cards in both unions. This involved spending a reported $150,000 or so of SAG dues money on a failed “educational” effort to interferewith the legitimate action of a sister union. They blew it again, the AFTRA contract was ratified, and the SAG leadership succeeded only in making themselves, and by extension all of us, look like bullies, and worse, fools.

Without a contract and looking more desperate all the time, SAG continued to talk tough and settled for a months-long period of stasis, during which production staggered, awaiting some resolution. This past fall, some new non-MF members were elected to the SAG National Board,which, as the economy began to crash around us, sent a Hail Mary to a federal mediator.

However, with the AMPTP sticking with its “final offer” and the same SAG negotiating team unwilling to let go of the DVD increase, the mediator made a stab, failed, saw the light and quickly headed back to Washington.

So now they want a strike.

A strike when AFTRA, with a contract, is putting its members to work.

A strike when TV shows are already moving to sign with AFTRA.

A strike that will put the few casts and crews now working on SAG projects out on the street with millions of other Americans.

A strike that, by stopping production in the middle of a collapsing economy, will condemn SAG, already a laughing stock, to the halls of infamy.

Why would they even think of a strike?

It be because winning that vote, no matter how devastating a strike would be, is the only way they can save face, the only way they can salvage the pretense that they actually knew what they were doing all along?

It appears that we’re now going to be paying for another “education campaign,” this time one that will explain how important it is that this strike vote succeed. Given recent history, I figure it’ll probably have something to do with the threat from hidden WMDs. And I’m sure there will be the admonition that “you’re either with us or with the terrorist AMPTP.”

Well I, for one, am not anti-union. God knows, as a member for over 40 years, I’m not anti-SAG. But I am anti-idiocy.

I’m voting no.

Mike Farrell

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Why I’m voting NO on the Strike Authorization Referendum

The Board’s responsible decision in October to try and bail out the negotiations and save face for SAG/LA leadership by involving a mediator demonstrated maturity and fiscal responsibility in an organization that has gained a reputation for knee-jerk, emotional responses. I congratulate those members of the NY Board, the Regional Branch Division and the new members of the Hollywood Board who have remained calm and clear-headed during very difficult times. These board members’ intention was for the negotiating committee to go back to the table (something that hadn’t happened since July) in a good faith attempt to finally negotiate the agreement that the WGA, DGA and AFTRA have all signed on to. Instead, the committee put DVDs back on the table ensuring the mediation would go nowhere. Even the WGA took their DVD proposal off the table before their strike. The vote in the negotiating committee to send out the Strike Authorization Referendum was not unanimous indicating that some members of the SAG team understand the realities and subsequently where the deal lies.

Now it’s the memberships’ turn to weigh in on this important issue. While I have never, ever voted against a strike authorization in my life I will quickly cast my no vote and hope that many members do the same. A strike authorization is a tool of leverage for your negotiator and negotiating committee but it’s crystal clear that the timing is wrong. It’s time for the membership to look behind the curtain and see the naked emperor. Only then can we clothe him and send him on his way.

Labor Relations 101: If you want to take a membership out on strike, you must be able to shut down the industry. It’s one of the reasons why the Phase One Agreement between SAG and AFTRA was created back in the 1980s – to ensure that in the event of a job action – ALL actors were on the same page.

That essential leverage ended when SAG initiated a campaign early last year to end Phase One and began pummeling AFTRA relentlessly. After rescinding a motion to send a referendum to SAG members to end the Phase One Agreement, SAG/LA leadership sat down with a Soap Opera cast for 2 hours discussing how to decertify from AFTRA which is a huge breach of trust and an enormous labor no-no. It was the last straw for AFTRA resulting in SAG heading to the TV/Theatrical negotiations alone. I

f SAG takes a strike under the TV/Theatrical Contract it will not shut down the industry. SAG actors, 44,000 of which are also AFTRA actors, will continue to work on new TV shows as they will be produced using the AFTRA contract. It’s reported that film work has been stockpiled for a year. You might not like the message, but it is reality.

Additional leverage was gone once the WGA took a strike. As a SAG and AFTRA member I have no say in what the WGA does, but the reality is that the WGA’s 100 day strike at this very time, last year, took a huge toll on actors’ salaries. Have you recovered that lost income?

Any leverage we might have had left evaporated along with the DOW, the S&P and NASDAQ. We have been in a major recession for the past year, over a million jobs lost in just a few months and both President Bush and President-Elect Obama are warning the American people that the end is nowhere in sight.

The fact is SAG was last in line of all the entertainment unions to negotiate a contract with the AMPTP. Because of that fact, a “pattern” has been established. The deal to be made is to a) get jurisdiction in New Media (which WGA, DGA and AFTRA have done and SAG currently has NOT) and b) take DVDs off the table. The WGA removed their DVD proposal BEFORE they went on strike, and both the DGA and AFTRA had no DVD proposals.

The simplest and cleanest way to establish jurisdiction is to get management to voluntarily recognize the union as the collective bargaining agent for that work. That is exactly what the DGA, WGA and AFTRA did, and their willingness to give on the residuals in low budget productions in New Media made this possible. SAG’s unwillingness to accept that reality is why we have been working without a contract for over five months.

And while there would be no residuals for work made in this one area of New Media for the time being, this provision will expire (”sunset“) at the end of this contract in 2011. The same is true for the DGA, WGA, and AFTRA, meaning all the unions will have to renegotiate New Media in 2011, giving us overwhelming leverage at that time. Since the current deal also requires the studios to report fully on all the New Media work they do (including budgets and creative staff) by the time we sit down to renegotiate, the unions will have a very strong case to make for changes in the contract. We can make a case that our employers are making money from our work when we have a) the jurisdiction and b) the facts. At this moment, it’s all speculative.

And, even if SAG miraculously were able to achieve jurisdiction with residuals, it would do nothing more than ensure that all work would be done under an AFTRA contract, since AFTRA has been working under the deal that’s on the table since July.

The question then becomes, “Is the membership prepared to strike on a concept and not actual money in your pocketbook” during a time of economic uncertainty? If we had some leverage left in our back pocket, I’d be willing to entertain the conversation but SAG’s leverage is gone.

As many people in our industry are fond of saying, “Timing is everything.” Our timing is off and by a long shot.

Eileen Henry,Former 2nd National Vice President, Screen Actors GuildFormer NY President, Screen Actors GuildCurrent Trustee, Screen Actors Guild Pension and Health Plan