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Report on Membership’s Merger Meeting!

14 February, 2012 (12:00) | 2012, Merger Mania, SAG Politics | By: Arlin Miller

The author is SAG Hero Michael Bell:

Up to my tush in responses from Thursdays night’s meeting which was the equivalent of an evening at the Magic Castle, however not as entertaining. All smoke and mirrors.

I watched an impassioned, mostly aware, but some ill informed group of actors ( 400 at least attending..about 50 at the mic ) ask cogent questions, make strong statements opposing merger, or simply gush enthusiastically about how happy they were upon receiving their SAG cards 3 or 4 years ago and ask plaintively” why can’t we all get along?”

The response from the Pro Merger SAG and AFTRA panel to cogent and intelligent questions was, to quote Big Daddy, an exercise in *MENDACITY

* mendacity: a highly fictionalized memoir in which facts were few and the mandcities were many.

When confronted by a member about why SAG has not presented a Financial Impact Report like the Mercer Report from 03, which is a Financial Impact Report that clearly showed a dimunition of benefits if SAG merged with AFTRA, SAG attorney Duncan Crabtree Ireland cherry picked his answer, and only sited the fact that a merger was feasable and legal ( which is the sum total of the puff piece they call the Feasiblity Review) . He did not site the fact that the merger was deemed unacceptable by the then trustees who made the decision to not approve it as a result of the Mercer Report’s findings. This ultimately caused the merger to be voted down.

He knew that fact, but chose not to disclose it. That’s our SAG attorney.

When AFTRA President Roberta Reardon was asked “why does AFTRA allow card carrying Broadcasters, Newsmen/women,Disc Jockeys, Game Show hosts etc to work NON UNION….(which means they do not pay into AFTRA’s pension plan now and won’t in this proposed NEW BRAVE UNION”), she deferred to their Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpath who calmly explained that they tried legally some time ago to organize broadcasters etc but they lost that battle in court. However, she maintained that with the strength of this NEW BRAVE UNION, they would certainly try again. This response elicited ( and rightly so) many boos and catcalls.

Of course she neglected to tell the audience ( most of whom were not taken in by her lame excuse..hence the vocal outrage ) that those broadcasters,newsmen,game show hosts, etc threatened to leave AFTRA if they didn’t back off. AFTRA of course did not want to ruffle the feathers of their biggest stars, and so agreed to let them continue to work off the card. I think most of the audience knew that formula would never change if we merged…and of course she knows it as well. Smart woman. Smarter crowd.

The members continued on several occasions to boo the panel when they came up with pathetic answers to cogent questions. As a result, President Howard had to stop the proceedings, and ask them to calm down. He became very folksy as he attempted to convince us he was “ah shucks just one of us” and why couldn’t we behave?
( A further example of how they are one of us was Secretary/Treasurer Amy Aquino’s claim she had a hard time making her insurance last year, and how this merger would help preclude that from happening if we merged ).

President Howard, put on his ” I’m really hurt face” and went on to explain how hard everyone up there worked to put this great plan together, and how he couldn’t understand why “golly” everyone was so unruly after his PRO MERGER panel gave those long drawn out answers to their questions…or why the members felt that they,the PRO panel, were all in bed with management.
He appealed to the crowd in his most folksy and bewildered “big fella who doesn’t get it” manner,to settle down, as the time was growing late and they truly were inerested to hear from everyone…if heck,time didn’t run out.”

All that was missing was a cowboy hat, a wet toothpick dangling from his mouth, dusty scuffed boots making circles in the sand, and someone off to the side ready to tear open the envelope, announcing the Best Dramatic Performance from a SAG President at an open forum in 2012.

At one point Ms Reardon tried to explain why the AFTRA formula of “voting on important issues and officers via convention” would serve the members better then the SAG “one person one vote” concept. It seems that in this NEW BRAVE UNION, the Executive Vice President ( a possible new paid position) the most powerful person in the union if we merge, will be appointed by convention. She explained that as a result of her, and the conventioneers being familiar with each each other, and each other’s positions on problems since they eat together,travel together and discuss important issues at the convention, that that knowledge would help them make a better decision as to who would be the most capable to captain this new ship” ( at least that was the gist of it) .

I certainly can understand her reasoning, since she unlike any other past President of either AFTRA or SAG, is now being paid for a position she volunteered for ( in fact the SAG Constitution is clear on that issue ).
Her salary was not voted in by the members of AFTRA who are paying her out of their dues, but at a Convention by her friends, and fellow delegates. Her salary of $3,500 a month was voted in by people she eats with, travels with and who she knows intimately. Well, at least 68% of her friends.

Most of the audience catcalled and booed her on that response. Again, our President called for order, and shook his weary head in disgust.

I watched Ms Reardon sally around the truth like a professional ice skater on rough ice. Spinning, and leaping and landing on point with nary a stumble.
And then I recalled seeing her for the first time at the 2008 plenary at Century City Plaza which I attended as a board member. I remembered how we all waited for Ms Reardon and the AFTRA board to arrive so we could begin discussing our joint proposed package on the New Media Contract. That’s right, Joint. Kinda like….a merger.

She and her contingent finally arrived a few hours late, only to march in lockstep to the stage to announce that they were going to negotiate the New Media contract with management ……ALONE!

They then promptly left, again in lockstep….sped off to management, and made a terrible deal for all actors in NEW MEDIA. A deal which exists to this day.

The reason they gave for that decision was that they were very angry at our then Executive Director Doug Allen and our then President Allen Rosenberg for meeting with the stars Susan Flannery and John McCook of the CBS soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful”, with the express purpose of SAG taking on the reins as that show’s bargaining agent.

I went to CBS the next week, met with Ms Flannery and another cast member, and got the truth behind AFTRA’s lie.
I asked Susan to present that truth to the press, and here it is.

http://www.deadline.com/interstitial/?r … traight%2F

Since then, neither Ms Reardon or anyone on her board has ever recanted her story or her reason for abandoning the joint negotiation with the union……she is oddly hot to merge with now.

So, if she and her board lied so that they could control the bargaining on the New Media contract, what is she and her board lying about now?

IF you want a fair and comprehensive answer to your question ” Why Merge?” , then I suggest you demand SAG Executive Director David White, President Ken Howard, Vice President Ned Vaughn and Secretary Treasurer Amy Aquino and AFTRA, President Roberta Reardon and Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpath arrange for an immediate OPEN FORUM for all members. This forum to be held before the ballots are mailed out at the end of February, would comprise NOT a panel of PRO MERGER staff and executive officers, but 4 panelists.

2 G1 members who voted NO on the merger plan and 2 who voted YES on the plan.

The member audience can then ask their questions and receive a comprehensive answer from both contingents.
A moderator would only be necessary to call on the members at the mic…as I believe that no one would shout out or boo answers they didn’t agree with…not if there was an opposing position. I would recommend that you request Anne Marie Johnson and David Jolliff be the NO merger panalists.

I would also suggest you demand they provide this same form of question and answer meeting with the New York members.

Fax and phone all of them on Monday first thing, and don’t let up until they provide you with a Democratic forum, and not the one sided kangaroo court we faced last Thursday evening.

I have done this kind of gorilla protest….and successfully, with many friends in the human community when either local or state politicians planned legislation that would harm or dismantle bills that protected animals. We have clogged their fax system and clogged their phones until they pleaded with us to stop. We have stopped their business, until our demands were met.

No emails, since they can be deleted with a stroke. FAXES and PHONE CALLS.

This is one fight we must win!


Thank you Mr. Bell!

The Ol’ Dog




SAVE SAG RALLY 2012 (Round 2)

When: Thursday, February 16, @ 1:00 pm

Where: Screen Actors Guild
5757 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Free validated parking for SAG & AFTRA members.
Please do not walk through the lobby with picket signs, or gather in the lobby. Once you park, make your way around Marie Calendar’s to Wilshire Boulevard where we will gather in front of SAG.

Come One, Come All!
Bring an Anti-Merger picket sign if have one…

Hope to see you there!

-Scott Pierce