This post is in response to James Cromwell’s 2/11/05 email responding to Anne-Marie Johnson’s SAG Callsheet letter! We are definitely a responsive group! Anyho’ Mr. Cromwell’s comments will feature his photo; mine will be accompanied by the Ol’ SAG Watchdog icon!
SAG Hollywood members just heard the wrong recommendation from Anne-Marie Johnson.
The wrong recommendation? How about an opposing viewpoint? And, This from the “One world union, or NO UNION AT ALL” guy who tried to persuade us to vote for Consolidation by appealing to our intellect with his in depth truncated treatise “Less Dues, More Muscle!”
She doesn’t think you should support the proposed TV/Theatrical Contract. She says it’s a bad deal – even though it’s the single richest contract ever secured for actors in our history and includes $144 million in wage increases for all performers; $60 million of employer money into our benefits plans; 75,000 new jobs for background actors; new weapons to battle reality programming and advance scripted television; and keeps actors working, uninterrupted, for another three years.
The single richest deal? Ah, Okay! But that’s only because they are working off a $1.2 Billion Contract! If they had only gotten a SINGLE BUCK it would still be the single richest in SAG history! Besides being the, ah, “richest” contract, it is also the Worst contract in SAG History: A precedent-setting rollback in actors residuals, no increase in DVD, and the lowest increases in minimums in recent SAG History. Originally, they claimed that it was a 3/3/3 9% across-the-board gain in minimums. But then it was pointed out by observant members that since the increases would not kick-in until 10/1/05 (3 months after the contract begins on 7/1/05) it was in reality a 2.25-3-3 across-the-board 8.25% increase! Even if you want to compound the interest, it doesn’t reach 9%! They have since officially dropped the 3/3/3, but still insist its 9%! While at the same time their fellow proponent, and NY Chair of the negotiation committee, has sent out an email claiming it’s a 9.27% increase. As, you will see, these folks have an affinity for changing numbers to suit their agenda.
But, unlike Mr. Cromwell, and the administration’s WAG (Wild Ass Guess), when it comes to figures, mine are backed with documentation! And not only do they prove that this contract’s proposed minimums are the worst three-year minimums in recent SAG History! You’ll notice that they also contain the lowest one-year minimum gain!
INCREASES IN MINIMUMS:
1995-1998 – 3.5-3.5-3.5
Proposed contract: 2005-2008: 2.25-3-3
You may remember the current SAG Leaderships’ press release ballyhooing their new deal.
(Los Angeles, January 20, 2005) “Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) announced today that they have negotiated a sweeping $200 million agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on a new three-year television and theatrical contract!”
Well, according to several members of the negotiating committee, the “agreement” numbers mentioned during the final day of negotiations was $150 million dollars! In fact, they were told by senior staff that any numbers they were given WERE NOT TO BE TRUSTED! A half hour after the negotiations concluded, the number jumped to $200 Million dollars for SAG’s press release! Well, unless, my math is showing, it has jumped again! Let’s see $144 million plus $60 million. ah, don’t that add up to $204 Million? Hey, at that erratic rate of increase, if we vote this contract down, by the time we return to negotiationsthe damn thing could be up to a half Billion! As to the 75,000 background jobs does any one doubt that they’re doing a little EXTRA fudging there also.
I encourage you to read the following and then make up your own mind. This contract is supported by a 3-1 margin of your joint national board. It offers historic gains at a time when unions across the country are accepting severe rollbacks or striking simply to maintain the status quo.
What James fails to mention along with his 3-1 remark, is that the SAG negotiating committee voted against it, 8 to 5! But, AFTRA voted 12-1 for it! So, the only reason we are even being proffered this contract now is because of AFTRA’s influence! So there you are, SAG’s negotiators with a 95% interest in the contract voted it down, while AFTRA with only a 5% stake voted it up! You’ll hear the argument that AFTRA’s negotiators are dual card members. Huh? Okay! But as AFTRA negotiators whose interest were they there to represent? And if it wasn’t AFTRA’s, why the heck were they there? Oh, and James tries to justify this deal resplendent with Historical rollbacks and revenue challenged minimums by comparing SAG, a union representing the biggest stars in the world, with other unions, like the pilots union, that is currently experiencing rollbacks because their employers are losing $BILLIONS! Jamie, our employers are making BILLIONS! Perhaps we should all chip in an get James a subscription to the trades so that he can read about the BILLIONS UPON BILLIONS of dollars our employers are raking in from the BOOMING DVD MARKET. It is so much loot that they won’t even reveal how much they are pocketing from overseas sales. Reading James’ comments, one wonders if there is any rationale he wouldn’t use to justify his “go-along-to-get-along” attitude.
So what sparks Ms. Johnson’s opposition? “Losses” for series regulars, a deal reached “too early,” and, of course, DVD residuals. The problem is, she’s wrong on all three. Here’s what you need to know:
Series Regulars: What does a new series regular want most? A successful show that offers long-term employment. Our member-led negotiating team agreed to a proposal that gives new shows a better shot to stay on the air, by forgoing additional payments to series regulars for rebroadcasts of just the first three episodes of new series, and only in the first 60 days of their launch – payments our members typically don’t get anyway.
“Forgoing additional payments …for rebroadcasts..!” S ay it straignt out, Jamie! What you’re talking about is actors GIVING UP RESIDUALS! “A proposal that gives new shows a better shot to stay on the air!” Not a proposal, Jamie! A GIVEAWAY! “Payments our members typically don’t get anyway.” Huh? Now there’s the kind of sorry, groveling reasoning, the studios would love for all of us to embrace! Hey, why don’t we just cut our rates in half? Heck, then they’d be doing all kinds of new shows! How about throwing in weekends free? I got it! Let’s have 18 hour days like they used to have before we had a union. In fact let’s just get rid of our union–and there would never be another work stoppage! Oh, and there would be plenty of long term employment! Get real, does any one truly believe that our forfeiture of those three residuals is going to help a show succeed! Let’s do the math again! Even if a new show had a cast of 10 regulars! The residual cap for each member is $3,225. That would add up to $32,500 dollars a show! And they expect members to believe that by giving producers a $32,500 dollar break on a show, that probably costs a*money MILLION DOLLARS or more an episode, is going to make or break that show! Hell, by combining the savings on all three shows, all that is going to be accomplished is that if the show fails, producers can use OUR money to pick up, say, a new Mercedes Benz SL Roadster to bolster their shattered egos! Let’s face it! It’s not about the money. It’s about the precedent! The Ol’ foot in the door maneuver! Our predecessors put their careers on the line in 1960 to get us residuals! And now, we’re about to take the first foolhardy backward step toward the precipice of what producers refer to as the “good” Ol’ days! Does anyone doubt that in three years, they’ll use this precedent-setting rollback to bargain away even more of our most sacrosanct of our revenue tenets? “You will pay us for the reuse of our workno ifs, ands, or buts!” Hey, we practically “gave” them cable and DVDand we are still paying for those stupendous stumbles! And now they want us to give up residuals? I don’t think so!
In doing so, they made sure guest stars and day performers are protected and remain fully compensated for these rebroadcasts.
Ain’t that like sorta like saying that we only allowed them to drown part of your family?
Should series regulars make this sacrifice in exchange for a greater chance to see a new series picked up? As a series regular, I know what my decision is.
Hmmm, I wonder how many residuals Mr. Cromwell has given up on “Six Feet Under?” Here’s a thought? How about everyone who signed that ad in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety supporting this contract, offer to give up three residual checks on any show or series on which they appear? I’m sure we could ALL get behind that! And, Jamie as a good faith gesture: why don’t you have your people call their people on Monday to get the Ol’ ball rolling?
The Timing of the Deal: We secured the richest contract ever for actors by negotiating when we had maximum leverage – before the major media companies invest millions of dollars preparing for a possible strike. Ms. Johnson would have us go back to the table when we have less power, not more, when the chances of a work stoppage rise substantially. In today’s Hollywood Reporter, one of her allies states that he “assumes” actors can get a better contract if we turn this one down. Are you willing to vote against a contract worth $200 million in gains for actors based on someone’s assumption? I’m not.
Ooops! The contract just dropped back down to $200 million! Look, Nick Counter and the AMPTP negotiators knew that they were dealing with a “go-along-to-get-along” leadership–that campaigned on the plank that a strike was not necessary to get a good contract! Knowing this, there was no way that they were going to give us a good deal! Why should they? At least if we went back with a mandate from the membership to get a better deal, they might take us seriously! Especially, if our leaders recruited star power to help get a good deal during negotiations, rather than recruiting them, after the fact, to push a bad deal upon us! Hey, is it just me– but wouldn’t you think, contrary to James’ convoluted logic, that we’d have more power “when the chances of a work stoppage rise substantially!” Now, I don’t know, but if there ain’t NO CHANCE OF A WORK STOPPAGE why would they give us any meaningful increases? Oh, by the way when you read the material accompanying your ballot– and they begin a paragraph with “In order to” watch your backside, Babe!
The truth about DVDs? Here’s the truth: We get residuals now. We get get them from home video, from cable reruns and network reruns. For the past decade, an actor’s share of DVD residuals has increased nearly 9 percent every year – 54 percent over the past three years. Last year we made well over $100 million in DVD residuals and that number is expected to grow by tens of millions more by the end of this contract. Did our negotiators still try to change the formula to get us even more? Yes. But when producers were unyielding, instead of moving to shut down our industry over this one issue, our team used it to leverage gains across-the-board in nearly every other area. Is the DVD issue worth asking every working actor to sacrifice for the benefit of a lucky few? You decide.
Out and out lie! Our negotiated “share” of DVD HAS NOT INCREASED in nearly a QUARTER OF A CENTURY! It’s the same as it has been since the early Eighties when the deal was made! They take EIGHTY PERCENT off the top, and dole out to us a miniscule “share” of the remaining TWENTY PERCENT! Actors’ “share” out of each TWELVE DOLLARS the producers receive on a DVD—TWELVE CENTS! To SPLIT amongst the ENTIRE CAST! (Half of which goes to the stars!) Can you imagine the sinking feeling of the 250 cast members of “The Titantic” when they got that first DVD residual check? Mr. Cromwell’s pathetic rationalizing in the above paragraph boils down to this-The CAKE is getting bigger! Therefore so are our CRUMBS! Oh, and that $100 million we made last year in DVD’s! If we got our fair share before they took EIGHTY PERCENT OFF THE TOP– it would have been A HALF-A-BILLION DOLLARS! And if we got our fair share, considering the unprecendented growth of the DVD market, we could bring in over a COUPLE of BILLION dollars from DVD alone during this contract! With the insurgence of that kind of money into our PH, we might be able to get rid of that fifty dollar a month copayment!
As an actor who has been fortunate to have a career in film and television, do I want more residuals? Sure. Am I willing to reject these historic gains – gains that include progress on residuals in other areas, health coverage for choreographers, extra rest time for stunt coordinators, more hazard pay for dancers – because I only get a 9 percent annual increase on my DVD residuals? Not a chance. Because if we reject this deal and are forced to return to the bargaining table only to find all our gains off the table, it would hurt all actors.
Poor, Jamie just can’t get his figures straight! One more time: Our percentage share on DVD has remained the same for almost 25 years! Well, he is only our Secretary/Treasurer! Oh, by the way, on the subject of percentages, the reason we’ll only get 2.25% instead of a full 3% on those first year minimums is because producers demanded the lower 2.25% percentage, worth about $7 million to them, to offset the $10 million dollar gain that Melissa is toting that background performers will receive! (Knowing the leadership’s propensity to fudge the figures what do you want to bet that those “gains” are only worth about, ah, say $7 million dollars?) Yep! The so-called biggest gains in the last thirteen years for background folks ain’t exactly all coming out of the producer’s pockets. It’s being subsidized by the membership as a whole! And why not! Background members, unlike new series regulars, account for a lot of votes! Have you noticed that the only time background performers appear on the radar of those currently in power is when they want to take away their voteor get it? Oh, and another sad thing! Mr. Cromwell, Melissa and their fellow Restore Respect members have such a low opinion of our worth as performers that they only assume that by returning to the bargaining table, we will get a worse deal! It would never occur to them, Five Months before our current contract expires, that we might get a BETTER DEAL! Oh, by the way, did you notice that Jamie said, ah, PROGRESS in residuals NOT INCREASES in residuals? Well, now if you take that to mean more money for SAG members, which it don’t, well, I betcha’ that’s Okey-Dokey with our esteemed Secretary/Treasurer!
I’m proud to serve the members of this Guild as secretary-treasurer, the second highest elected position in our union. This contract is good for all performers. What actors gained in an anti-union environment is nothing short of extraordinary. I urge you to join with the following Hollywood members to VOTE YES.
If you needed to know anymore about whether this is a good deal or not! You only need to check out the discrepancy on the ballot! The disingenuous method in which information meetings are being scheduled– and a contradiction in President Melissa Gilbert’s message to the membership! (Oh, by the way in her message to the membership she called it a $200 million dollar deal! These folks really should get a calculator– or get their talking points straight!)
Perhaps Jamie can send out another email at OUR expense explaining why, if this is such a good deal, CEO Bob and Melissa have arranged Information Meetings up to TEN DAYS after the ballots have been sent out! Especially when they have the research that tells them that most members vote in the first FIVE DAYS after receiving their ballots!
Our Hollywood Informational Meeting is scheduled for February the 17th. Yet at the bottom of my ballot material that arrived February the 10th, it states, “Be sure to vote immediately” Huh? But wait Melissa, in her message to the membership, says “Informational meetings will be held across the country so you can ask questions before you vote!” Huh?
Now, this may seem like a radical, dissident idea, but if as Melissa Gilbert and John Connolly proclaimed in the press, that they want the membership informed, ah, why didn’t they have the informational meetings within the 5 day time frame during which their own research concludes that most members vote! Or better yet, in line with their proclamation that they were “in support of full discolsure and democractic debate ” why not hold true debates BEFORE the ballots go out! There could be handouts, a factual slide show sans hyperbole, followed by viewpoints from both proponents and opponents!
Alright, alright, I know Mike; I’m just another one of those craven misanthropes!
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
Formatting is SW’s!