A-listers fire back for SAG
Jack Nicholson among actors against AFTRA pact
By Leslie Simmons and Andrew Salomon
June 24, 2008, 10:24 PM ET
Complete SAG/AFTRA coverage
The battle of dueling A-listers heated up Tuesday as SAG enlisted 67 actors — including Jack Nicholson, Ben Stiller and Martin Sheen — to back its campaign against the ratification of AFTRA’s tentative pact with the studios and networks.
The move comes just days after Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey and more than 100 other guild members went on record in support of AFTRA’s contract and urged a “yes” vote on its ratification.
For SAG, which completed its 37th negotiating session with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on Tuesday, the AFTRA ratification vote is crucial. The guild will have little leverage at the bargaining table if AFTRA’s pact is approved; if it’s voted down, the membership will have sent a strong signal that it is committed to achieving more.
The issues splitting the unions, as well as factions of SAG, are wages, pension and health contributions; residuals for all new media; no non-union media productions; protections from product integration; an increase in DVD residuals; and preserving force majeure protections. Those opposing ratification of AFTRA’s pact say the gains in its tentative deal are not enough.
Meanwhile, SAG’s national executive committee has voted to seek an extension to the union’s TV/theatrical contract, which expires Monday. The move is not surprising, as the guild’s chief negotiator Doug Allen has said he expects talks to continue past the deadline.
AFTRA brokered its tentative deal with the AMPTP on May 28. Members are now voting on whether to ratify the contract, with results expected July 8. A simple majority is needed for approval.
AFTRA has about 70,000 members overall, which makes the math for SAG extremely difficult, at least in theory. It would need to convince more than 35,000 of the 44,000 dual cardholders — almost 80% — to vote against the deal, assuming the other 26,000 or so would vote to approve it.
Then again, member response to referenda and elections has been historically low, often less than 30%, so nothing is certain. And it is because of that low voter turnout that both unions have been waging their campaigns for or against the AFTRA contract.
The executive committee, which was bitterly divided over the anti-AFTRA campaign, was nearly unanimous in backing the extension request. Tension arose later in the meeting, however, when members of the New York and other regional factions, who have endorsed the AFTRA contract, demanded to know what the plan for SAG would be if AFTRA members ratified the contract.
“It’s absolutely dead certain that AFTRA will not go back to the table with SAG under any circumstances,” said a source with knowledge of the meeting. “For Doug Allen to be making statements to the contrary is absolutely intentionally misleading the membership.”
A spokesman for the AMPTP said Tuesday that the group had received no request for an extension.
SAG also has posted several videos from high-profile members on its Web site. Sheen and Ed Harris deliver 30-second video statements that say they “support the negotiating team.”
Viggo Mortensen taped a longer video explaining his unhappiness with AFTRA.
“In the current issues we are dealing with, I would say that AFTRA is one of the main stumbling blocks,” a somber Mortensen says. “I’m sorry to say that.”
Mortensen adds that he’s considering withdrawing from AFTRA temporarily and tells viewers, “If you don’t take part, you will get screwed. And I don’t intend to get screwed.”
In response to the trade ads, an AFTRA spokeswoman said “thousands” of AFTRA members, as well as SAG board members in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and the labor community, support the union’s contract.
“Yet, SAG’s Hollywood leadership continues down its dysfunctional path, spending its members’ dues in a misguided effort to attack another union and undermine a solid contract,” the spokeswoman said. “For our part, we remain focused on educating AFTRA members about the facts and the merits of their new agreement so they can make an informed decision. We are confident that they will see through this latest politically motivated effort and ultimately ratify the AFTRA contract and help keep our industry working.”
AFTRA was the first to enlist top actors to back its cause, sending out phone messages to its members from actors including Sally Field and James Cromwell last week. SAG followed with a “robo” phone calls by “Grey’s Anatomy” star Sandra Oh, urging AFTRA members to vote no.
Andrew Salomon is news editor at Back Stage East.
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
SAG, AFTRA in spin cycle
Union vs. union battle continues
By DAVE MCNARYIn
the union vs. union tragicomedy that has played out in Hollywood, SAG’s major beef with the AFTRA contract has been that it does not deliver enough gains for middle-class thesps.
AFTRA and SAG are both playing a bit fast and loose with the facts in making the case, respectively, for and against the deal to AFTRA’s 70,000 members, 44,000 of which have dual membership in SAG.
The bottom line is who do you want bargaining for you. AFTRA, a compliant Star(Less) Chamber union, that will not let you see the contracts you work under, or even verify the results of a referendum vote–or SAG which has a tradition of standing up for actors for 75 years.
No point appears to be too small to fight over, but the overriding issue is whether SAG has a chance of reaching a deal with the majors on new-media and other contentious issues that are markedly different from the deals already agreed to by the DGA, WGA and AFTRA, pending the latter’s ratification vote.
It is an important point to actors that they don’t receive TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS for a year of network reruns on the internet, and that they will lose the right to bargain for clip usage, and that our signatories are allowed to produce most of their shows on the Internet NON UNION with NO RESIDUALS.
AFTRA’s pro-ratification ballot, due back by July 8, and SAG’s “vote no” campaign offer highly diverging and complex versions of what’s at stake for actors.
SAG leaders have raised eyebrows among biz insiders for what some view as its mischaracterization of the value of AFTRA’s contract, particularly the gains realized in a bread-and-butter area for middle-class TV thesps — minimums for major roles in series.
Hello! We are tired of working for Bread and Butter, we and our families deserve more for our contribution to the product that cannot be produced without us. Let Les Moonves and the gang, making billions, try and feed their families on bread and butter. Hello?
SAG has argued that actors could be making less over three years, adjusted for inflation, than they are today because AFTRA’s increase in minimums amounts to about 10% over three years.
“Provisions for major role performers were not improved nearly enough,” SAG has maintained in its communications to members. “The money breaks provide little improvement.”
AFTRA maintains it made strides in the major-role minimums, because it secured an immediate boost of 6% from the current contract, rising to 13% by the third year. It also got a boost in the so-called multiplier figure that, in the intricacies of how actor salaries are calculated, chips into an actor’s overall compensation for a role. The existing AFTRA multiplier (or the percentage by which the base minimum is increased) was 7.5% but rises to 10% in the new contract.
The first year increase of 3.5% in minimums does not even keep up with inflation. It amounts to FIVE GALLONS of gas per job. Whoopie!
With a base minimum in the new contract of $4,323 per day (up from $4,080) for major-role players in a half-hour series, the increase in the multiplier means that actors will get an additional $432.30 per day, as opposed to $302.61 if the multiplier had not been increased.
Hmmm, about a hundred buck increase over three years, in the meantime the future of actors on the Internet is sold out. And if you think producers will increase our share as the Internet booms, I’ve got two words for you CABLE and VHS/DVD. Okay, make that three words.
SAG makes no mention of the increase in the multiplier but still hammers that part of the deal. SAG and AFTRA are also going at it on whether AFTRA secured sufficient gains in overtime coin for actors, while AFTRA notes that the new pact includes the first overtime gains of any sort since 1998.
They talk overtime gains, while they sell our future down the tubes. Duh!
As SAG begins its 38th day of negotiations with the majors today, the pro-AFTRA forces have added Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey to their list of several hundred endorsers, led by Tom Hanks and Sally Field. SAG’s anti-deal campaign has been stressing that voting no does not mean AFTRA will go strike, even though the ballot says a no vote gives AFTRA leaders a strike authorization.
SAG announced Tuesday it had added high-profile supporters including Jack Nicholson, Ben Stiller, Josh Brolin, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Viggo Mortensen, Nick Nolte and Martin Sheen. It’s also amped up its PR campaign via print ads.
At last, “A” Listers, who are acting like our stars of the past and standing by their union and its rank and file actors.
“A no vote means no and that’s all its means,” SAG said in an ad placed in today’s edition of Daily Variety. “What about going back to the table? Is AFTRA saying they won’t go back and bargain a better deal if AFTRA members vote this deal down? The SAG national negotiating committee knows that a ‘no’ vote makes a strike less likely because it shows that all actors want a better deal.”
The SAG-AFTRA brawling also raises the key question of clout. SAG has blasted the notion of the AFTRA deal serving as a template, because AFTRA’s last primetime contract generated $40 million for members while SAG’s last three-year feature-primetime pact generated $4 billion over the same period. Observers say the argument makes little sense, because SAG has so many more members working in the primetime and film arena.
SAG’s also hammering AFTRA over its “abandonment” of new media residuals — without noting that the AFTRA terms mirror those of the DGA and WGA deals. It claims that doing so marks “the beginning of the end” of residuals while failing to mention that its allies at the WGA wound up settling for the same terms as those in the AFTRA pact.
Excuse me, but who gives a sh*t what the DGA and WGA settled for. If we are going to settle for what they get, why even bother to go to the bargaining table. Oh, by the way on those Internet Reruns writers get around SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS while actors under the same deal would get between TWENTY THREE DOLLARS all the way up to a whopping HUNDRED AND FIVE DOLLARS for series regulars. Oh, by the way, WGA President Patric Verrone said that he hoped SAG got a better deal than the writers got. Well, AFTRA’s Exhibit A “Giveaway” don’t do it
SAG contends that such residuals are crucial at this point: “This is a huge problem for SAG members because the new media platform could cannibalize some existing residuals models for both motion pictures and television when product moves to the Internet.”
SAG has blasted AFTRA over the deal’s online clip-consent provisions, noting that part of the deal is contingent on the development of a process for securing consent.
“Without strong protections in place — AFTRA’s right of consent at the time of hire could easily become ‘Right to get fired at the time of hire,'” SAG complained.
AFTRA, on the other hand, argues that it achieved the consent provision “despite enormous opposition” from the majors. Even sympathetic industry insiders are skeptical whether AFTRA will be able to come to terms on the clip-consent, but AFTRA is putting a glass-half-full spin on that part of the pact.
Hello! Consent at the time of orginial employment is NO consent at all for middle class actors, and most likely would lead to blacklisting of those [iuncooperative actors.
“Whatever we come up with, it will still be completely up to the performer to grant or withhold consent,” AFTRA asserted.
AFTRA also issued another blast Tuesday at SAG in reaction to the ad campaign, noting that SAG’s own New York, Chicago, and San Francisco boards have supported the AFTRA deal. “Yet SAG’s Hollywood leadership continues down its dysfunctional path, spending its members’ dues in a misguided effort to attack another union and undermine a solid contract,” a spokeswoman said. “For our part, we remain focused on educating AFTRA members about the facts and the merits of their new agreement so they can make an informed decision. We are confident that they will see through this latest politically motivated effort and ultimately ratify the AFTRA contract and help keep our industry working,”
It’s like I’ve told you, NY and most of the Branch board members are AFTRA Operatives in SAG clothing!
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You Can do more than just vote NO. Call SAG at (323)549-6459 to help man the phones and get the message out to fellow SAG members. If we work together we can save our great guild.