(Updates at bottom of this post)
The ballots for a strike authorization have gone out to a couple of thousand “affected” SAG /AFTRA Members. Since in one way or another how this vote turns out is going to “affect” all SAG/AFTRA members, the Old Dog thought you should have a look at the producers offer along with the Pro and Con statements included with the ballot.
This was posted on the SAG Actor Bulletin board by Terrence Beasor, friend and sometime SAG Watchdog contributor.
AFTRA PRESS RELEASE:
“Los Angeles (May 24, 2005) Referendum materials for a possible work stoppage against video game companies were mailed today to approximately 1,900 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and 1,000 American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) members who have earnings under union contracts governing the video game industry.”
We are having a referendum for 2,900 out of 120,000 members? What is that? According to my calculator that is less than 2% (per cent) of the membership.
SAG Constitution ARTICLE XI:
“Section 2. Membership ratification shall not be required for any collective bargaining agreement which the Board of Directors determines in good faith is not to be used in widespread or industry-wide application affecting a substantial portion of the membership, such as agreements covering low-budget films, student films, or the like, and interim contracts of short duration. Such agreements shall, however, be approved by a vote of a majority of the Board of Directors or National Executive Committee voting thereon.”
1,900 members are a substantial portion of the SAG membership? 1,425 out of the 1,900 SAG members allowed to vote in this referendum must vote yes for a strike to occur. Jesu Christo!
Although, the Ol’ Dog has no problem with a referendum. Especially one with a pro and con statement. I do think that one with such important ramifications should not be limited to so called “affected” members. We will all have to live with the determination on this issue. And, I do find it odd that we are varying from our constitution. And one would hope that the Ol’ Affected word would not be expanded upon in future contract referendums.
It is also interesting that our leader Melissa Gilbert has not endorsed this strike authorization. But, then she did run on the platform that a strike is not necessary to get a good contract. And too, if there is a strike authorization and SAG prevails, ah, her timidity on pushing for an increase in DVD might be a tad embarrassing.
The Pro statement was endorsed by the SAG Interactive Committee. Since this is a public website, we deleted the names of those 7 members (5 SAG/2 AFTRA) of the negotiating committee who signed their names in support of a strike authorization—to avoid any possibility of reprisals by vid-employers!
So, SAG only controls 20% of the market. And
“They don’t need to learn how to work without us, they already know how?”
Okay, so if they are already non-union then that takes them out of the equation, since no matter how we vote they ain’t gonna hire us anyway! It’s that twenty percent that are gonna be hurting. As to stars not being necessary. Yeah, right! That’s why they pay them a million bucks! And the studios may control the rights to the movies but they don’t control the stars voices and images! It’s sort of like saying, they can make movies without the stars, ah, after all they own the rights to the script. Double Duh! As to them already having enough product to hold out: This is the same tired argument that’s always used by the go-along-to-get-alongs. Look, these guys have already shown by action and pronouncement that they have hitched their wagon to our stars! There are millions if not billions of bucks at stake. So, they can hold off for a while and THEN…? Where will the new product be THEN…? Oh, yeah, I forgot, there’s always Larry the Engineer and the guy who is with that little theater group that looks kinda like Sean Connery! But wait kiddies, we need to ORGANIZE! Ten years into working with these guys and now its time to ORGANIZE! You know that’s the very thing that they keep saying at AFTRA! And you know that sooner or later they are going to get that CNN contract, ah its only been TWENTY something years, ah, but first they’ve got to ORGANIZE! And they will as soon as THE TIME IS RIGHT! Thank, god our predecessors didn’t ORGANIZE! They were to damn busy getting RESIDUALS!
The con statement was endorsed by an AFTRA leader from San Francisco and a SAG leader from New York! Boy there’s a shocker!
A.L. Miller Editor & Chief
Update One: Here’s the email sent to those AFTRA members who will be voting on the Interactive agreement. Although the AFTRA leaders sending the mail claim to be neutral, ah, its seems to me that their neutral statement sounds a heck of a lot like the Con statement above!
Your Voice in Music, Entertainment and News & Information – Your Union
If you work in Interactive Games, please read this message carefully.If you worked under the AFTRA Interactive Contract between 2002 and 2005, you will be receiving strike referendum materials in the mail from AFTRA within the next few days. Please note that you must cast your vote by 5 p.m. PDT/8 p.m. EDT, June 7, 2005. Your ballot instructions will direct you to vote electronically (by phone or by Internet).
This is an important referendum, so please read the materials carefully.This referendum will ask AFTRA members whether to go on strike against the producers of Interactive Games or not. Even if you attended one of the previous interactive performers’ caucuses or voted in a previous strike referendum, it is this vote that will determine whether we strike. The AFTRA Administrative Committee received a report from the AFTRA and SAG negotiating committees and on the caucuses in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and listened carefully to the divergent viewpoints. After that report, the Administrative Committee voted unanimously to send a referendum to the affected AFTRA members, without recommendation. (After hearing the same report, the SAG National Executive Committee voted 12-11 to send a referendum to affected SAG members with a recommendation to strike.)
Given the seriousness of the question before the members, and the unique issues involved, the members of the AFTRA Administrative Committee felt it extremely important, regardless of their individual opinions, to allow the AFTRA members who do this work, and who will make the sacrifices necessary to win a strike, to weigh their options and cast their votes in private.
This referendum poses some difficult questions. On the one hand, the effort to establish a residuals formula in the Interactive contract is unquestionably a legitimate and important goal. On the other hand, the offer on the table from the employers contains significant improvements – including wage increases of over 30% – and virtually no give-backs, in a field where AFTRA and SAG have only 20% of the market organized. While historically residuals have only been achieved through a strike or serious threat of a strike, in those instances the unions had greater control of the market and a reasonable certainty about their ability to shut down production and win their demands.
The question is not whether establishing a residual formula is a legitimate and righteous goal. The question is whether the performers who do this work believe that this is the right time, place and tactic for establishing this principle. As those of you who were involved in the 2000 Commercials Strike know, that road is paved with hardship and uncertainty and, therefore, must be followed with clarity and unshakable resolve. Consequently, the members now voting on this question must consider their options in private, and then speak clearly about their choice. The union will support the decision of its members.
Kim Roberts Hedgepeth (National Executive Director)
John P. Connolly National President AFTRA
Update 2: The following is the Official Negotiating Committee Rebuttal to the Con statement posted above!
REBUTTAL TO CON STATEMENT
In the next day or so you will be receiving ballots from S.A.G. and AFTRA if you’ve worked under the Interactive Games contract. (Note: You will only be getting ONE ballot from ONE union unless you’ve worked on games covered by BOTH unions.)
If you have not yet received your ballots please save this email and refer to it as you decide how to vote.
The ballot will be asking you to authorize a strike against game producers, and in the ballot mailings you will find a PRO and CON statement. (Note: the strike will only be against game producers and not against any other area of v.o.)
The facts in the PRO statement are endorsed by all five members of the S.A.G. Interactive Negotiating Committee and two-thirds of the AFTRA Interactive Negotiating Committee (you’ll find our names below.)
The assertions in the CON statement were co-authored by (Name of New York SAG Leader omitted by Watchdog) who did not participate in any of the Interactive Negotiations and whom we believe does not perform in Interactive Games.
Several assertions in the CON statement are seriously misleading and so your Interactive Negotiating Committee is sending you this email as an official rebuttal:
1)The CON statement says that the rally at the E3 Convention in L.A. was “organized by strike proponents.” It was in fact organized by paid staff members from S.A.G. and AFTRA.
2)The CON statement boasts about the fact that NY and SF actors voted “4 to 1″ against a strike. First of all, this figure is ONLY related to caucuses held on Friday, May 13th, and furthermore, only 8 actors attended the SF caucus that night, and only 6 attended the NY caucus!
The 73 actors who attended the May 13th caucus in L.A. voted almost 72% in favor of a strike authorization.
The caucuses held on April 25th in L.A., SF and NY yielded over a 90% vote in FAVOR of a strike authorization.
The CON statement makes no mention of the fact that the May 13th meeting in L.A. was attended by numerous S.A.G. and AFTRA members who are also producers, directors and casting directors of interactive games. Since they are card-carrying members of our unions they were allowed to speak against the strike authorization and ultimately their votes were counted among the 21 no-strike votes.
3)The CON statement says “Many of the games slated for release in 2005 and early 2006 have already been completed which leaves no ability to impact their profits during the 2005 holiday season.” Where do the authors of the CON statement get their information? They were not given access to the accounts of game producers, so how could they possibly know what will and will not impact profits? The statement that the unions will have “no ability to impact [producer's] profits” is completely irresponsible because there is absolutely no evidence to back it up.
Just for the record, the CON authors did not attend the E3 conference and therefore didn’t gather first-hand evidence, which would have completely contradicted their statements. WE DID. There are over 160 games currently in development to work on the ‘next generation of consoles’ and the ‘next gen’ doesn’t even launch until December. We learned that many games HAVE NOT yet recorded voices on games slated for the 2005 holiday seasonlet alone 2006.
4)From the CON statement: “Under the proposed contract, scale goes up 32%; seven times the usual increase in the first year alone.” They fail to mention that it will take an additional FOUR years to get to that 32% increase. They also fail to mention that wages have only increased 10.3% over the LAST TWELVE YEARS.
If you approve the producers’ contract you will have increased scale to a grand total of 42.3% over 16 years that sounds great until you do the math: that’s ONLY 2.64% per year less than the rate of inflation. The producers’ proposal does not even allow us to ‘catch up’ and will still pay rates below animation work.
5)The CON statement says: “[the committee] wouldn’t budge from their proposal for a $30,000 payout for some games.”
DELIBERATELY MISLEADING. Only a game like Halo 2, which grossed over $200 million would have had to pay a large residual payment like that and the total paid to all actors on that game would only have amounted to less than 1% of the total gross revenue. Of the 4,371 games made in 2004, only 85 would have had to pay ANY kind of residual under our proposal.
There was never an opportunity to “budge” from our proposal – producers WOULD NOT EVEN DISCUSS residuals with us in ANY FORM, using ANY FORMULA.
They said “Not residuals not now, not ever.” (A direct quote.)
The CON statement implies that producers would have entertained a proposal for ‘less residuals’ and that we were simply being unreasonable. Just for the record we did in fact LOWER our residuals formula TWICE during negotiations even though producers would NOT even discuss the concept of residuals with us.
6)From the CON statement: “Negotiating members making triple scale said the work is too stressful, and after a game they aren’t able to do a commercial VO.”
Most of the work performed by committee members is for SCALE – not triple scale. Furthermore, when the stress on your voice puts you out of commission for an entire day you can lose work IN EVERY AREA, not just in “commercial” VO.
7)The CON statement used the phrases “peanuts” and “pennies” as though quoting from someone on the PRO side of the argument. You will note that the PRO statement does not use these terms anywhere.
8- The CON statement says to “Vote NO on this referendum – see if we can improve the offer.”
If this strike authorization goes down to defeat it is our opinion that there is NO WAY that producers will come back with an “improved” offer. There will be absolutely no leverage for the unions and absolutely NO INCENTIVE for producers to do so.
The truth is this: only if you vote YES for a strike authorization, will there even be a remote chance that producers might return to the bargaining table and negotiate better terms with us before an actual strike begins.
We the undersigned represent almost the entire negotiating team that went into the Interactive Negotiations. We went into negotiations carrying a mandate from several interactive caucuses in which we were told by the membership “Get some form of residuals.”
We bargained in good faith over a three-month period. Only after getting a “last best and final offer” from producers that did not include residuals in ANY form, did we feel there was no choice but to ask for a strike.
Please read all the materials very carefully and give this issue the weight it deserves.
S.A.G. has already entered into Animation Negotiations. Before the next few months are over, S.A.G. will have entered into Basic Cable negotiations.
Do you seriously believe that our negotiators will be able to get ANY improvements in animation or basic cable if producers see that union members aren’t willing to go on strike, even in an instance where the unfairness of a multi-billion dollar industry like interactive is so apparent?
If you have any questions, concerns, or doubts, please contact us.
DON’T LET YOURSELVES BE DEVALUED VOTE YES.
The Interactive Negotiating Committee
*(Since the Watchdog is a public website often perused by our employers and others, the names of the 5 SAG/2 AFTRA Negotiating Committee endorses have been omitted to avoid reprisals by Interactive Producers.)
**All formatting is SW’s.