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SAG Blinks! Sign’s interactive contract on gamers terms.

April 19, 2005 (20:21) | 2005 | By: Arlin Miller

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

UNIONS AND VIDEO GAME COMPANIES REACH TENTATIVE AGREEMENT ON NEW CONTRACTS

Performers and Producers Avert Work Stoppage on Eve of Strike Vote Tally;

Unions’ Focus Now Moves to Stepped-Up Organizing Efforts

Los Angeles (June 8, 2005) -Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) today announced they have reached tentative agreements with video game companies on new contracts. The new three-and-a-half year agreements — reached after three months of bargaining, the break-off of talks on May 13, and right before the results of a strike authorization vote by both unions was to be announced — include a 36 percent increase in minimum pay over the term, with 25 percent to be immediately implemented. In addition, the pacts contain significant increases in benefit contributions, as well as greater protections for the performers who do this work. The tentative agreements now must be approved by SAG’s National Executive Committee and AFTRA’s National Administrative Committee, both of which will meet in the coming weeks.

On the eve of a strike authorization vote, and after much deliberation, both unions reluctantly withdrew their demand that a residual, or profit-sharing, model be instituted for video games, in return for producers putting more money for minimum pay into both contracts. Accordingly, the parties have agreed that the final vote tallies for the strike authorizations will not be announced.

“The negotiating committee wrestled with a great challenge. Our members clearly support the inclusion of residuals in our Interactive contracts. However, with great reluctance, our negotiating committee concluded that it is in the interests of the members who work these contracts to make this deal,” said SAG President Melissa Gilbert. “We will spend the next three-and-a-half years devoting resources to further organize this industry, and return to the bargaining table with renewed strength and vigor to establish a fair participation in the enormous profits generated by video games.”

AFTRA National President John Connolly noted, “We are proud that this deal significantly enhances wages and increases benefits for performers in interactive games. While we did not get all that we want…and deserve this contract is another important step in building artists’ power in this growing sector of the media industry. The road to creating fair industry standards for working performers runs through significantly increased union density in interactive game production. We will vigorously pursue this objective during the term of this agreement. Achieving greater density in interactive games will dramatically serve our goal of winning residuals. I salute the hard work, hard road, and hard decisions that our member committee and our dedicated staff took on in these negotiations.”

If approved, these contracts, covering voice-over talent, singers, dancers and performance capture performers, among others, will become effective July 1, 2005 and remain in full force until December 31, 2008. The previous agreements initially expired on December 31, 2004, but were extended several times as negotiations continued.

Highlights of these agreements include:

An immediate 25 percent increase in minimum wages from $556 to $695 for a four-hour session for up to three voices with increases in subsequent years, bringing the daily rate up to $759.

Double time pay after six hours (previously ten hours) for three-voice performers.
A 7.5 percent increase in contributions to the unions’ benefits plans, bringing the rate up to 14.3 percent.
15-25 percent gains in rates for remote delivery and integration.
Payment to actors for reuse of performances in promotional films longer than 12 minutes.
A specified rest period for each hour spent recording.
Payment window shortened from 30 to 12 business days.
Pre-work notification to actors performing in stressful sessions.

So, after all the ill-timed, public saber rattling once again SAG has blinked! The truth of the matter is that once the ballot and accompanying material went out to the “affected” members in a blatant exercise of qualified voting, the failure of this unconstitutional referendum was a done deal.

And we can only assume that it indeed did fail–since the guilds took the very deal they had until recently rejected! But then when you have to reach a 75% / 66 .7% threshold, and you indicate that the ONLY result of a strike authorization will be a strike, it don’t take much to maneuver the membership in the direction you want them to move.

The possibility of using the threat of a strike as leverage was “affectively” negated by the so-called “neutral” statements of the SAG/AFTRA leadership which “affectively” defined the choice facing”affected” members in the terms of the New York and San Francisco “go-along-to-get–along’s” con statement!

Oh, well, I think it’s pretty safe to say that from now on, until we get some real leadership, we are pretty well gonna’ have to be satisfied with what they give us. Let’s face it, once the real possibility of a strike is taken off the table, all that is left to be done is to gather the crumbs off the floor.

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !.

*Something a lot of members don’t realize is that unlike elections–in referendums, the NEDs of both unions getting a running count.

Lew Wasserman, ” A compliant union is a good union!”

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SAG Scolds Governator

April 19, 2005 (20:21) | 2005 | By: Arlin Miller

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Posted: Tue., Jun. 7, 2005, 8:15pm PT

SAG rags on Governator

Schwarzenegger takes heat from Guild

By CLAUDE BRODESSER, DAVE MCNARY

“Collateral Damage,” indeed.

Just as California’s Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is preparing for a special election campaign that attacks the California Legislature and its public employee unions, the Governator is taking fire from his own union.

Team Arnold’s new anti-tax TV ad attacks Democratic legislators as being beholden to union interests, but turns out to have been a non-union shoot itself — an awkward situation for one of the highest-profile politicos to ever carry a SAG card.
Calls to Schwarzenegger’s press reps were not returned Tuesday.

The Screen Actors Guild issued a tersely worded scolding.

In a statement, a SAG spokesman said union leadership was “disturbed and disappointed” to learn the spot produced was non-union.

Schwarzenegger’s appearance in the commercial in his capacity as Governor was not a technical violation of Guild rules because elected officials who appear as themselves in commercials are not required to be covered by SAG’s Commercials Contract but SAG still vented its displeasure.

“His failure to cover professional performers and crews under industry-standard contracts definitely violates the spirit of what unions stand for,” read the SAG statement, “As someone who has benefited from the hard-won protections of union contracts and will continue to reap those rewards as he collects residuals and, ultimately, his pension, it is inexcusable that the governor did not take all measures necessary to ensure that his fellow performers could enjoy those same protections.”

“We hope that in the future he will follow the lead of many political leaders before him and produce ads under union contracts so that his fellow performers can enjoy the same protections that he has enjoyed throughout his career.”

Read the full article at:
http://www.variety.com/story.asp?l=story&a=VR1117924074&c=1066

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Okay, you’ve got to admire the leadership for making the above statementand standing up to the governor! There is the perception (if not a reality), among rank and file members that for too long now our guild has had separate standards for the haves and the have-nots!

Perhaps this will alleviate some of that! Of course, the reality here is that the guild is trying to have it both ways! Although they are condemning the governor on one hand, on the other they are giving him a pass that the rest of us would not get.

“Schwarzenegger’s appearance in the commercial in his capacity as Governor was not a technical violation of Guild rules because elected officials who appear as themselves in commercials are not required to be covered by SAG’s Commercials Contract but SAG still vented its displeasure.”

So, they are basically saying that “Oh, yeah, what the Governor did is a bad thing, but technically there is nothing we can do about it.”

Well, I have contacted SAG Spokesperson Seth Oster on this matter, and asked for a constitutional basis for that interpretation! I heard from Mr. Oster this afternoonand at that time, he told me that SAG had yet to confirm that the governor had done any non-union commercials. Obviously, things have changed a tad since that conversation. Although as I reported earlier, my sources have informed the Ol’ Dog that there have been rumblings, and warnings, at the guild for the last month or so on the governor’s non-union activities.

Why the soft sell on the technicality thing?* Well, can you imagine what will hit the fan if a member files charges against our governor! Uh, by the way, I understand that could very well happen!

In the meantime, I think our guild, and membership, will be better served if the leadership is upfront with us at all times, rather than waiting for something like this to leak out then engage in damage control!

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

*The Ol’ Dog is eagerly waiting for that constitutional ruling that allows a SAG member to do a non-union political spot using non-union actors while at the same time using product placement to generate money!

Yeah, that’s one I definitely want to read while drinking my coke!

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Watchdog Exclusive! SAG Leadership kowtows to Governator! First the Heat! Then the SNOW!

April 19, 2005 (20:21) | 2005 | By: Arlin Miller

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So, now that it has been revealed on the Ol’ Watchdog that our Governor, and SAG member, is doing non-union commercials. SAG is feeling the heat and our fearless leadership have sprung into action trying to make excuses for him. Item: The current SAG leadership has known about Arnold’s non-union commercial activity for some time nowbut, with their “go-along-to-get-along” mind-set, they have done NOTHING: In hopes that the problem would just go away.

Well, it ain’t !!

So, now that the heat is on, they have sprung into action with the Snowjob! Rather than standing up to the Terminator, they are backing off, and were running around all day like chickens with their heads cut off, never weavering, ah, rather wavering in their effort to try to find justification for not taking any action against him.

And now they are telling the inquiring media that the SAG board way back in the “Nineties” made a ruling that allows politicians to do non-union spots!

Oh, really? Obviously, this group of intrepid leadership has not read our contracts or constitution! But wait, maybe the Ol’ Dog is mistaken and should re-read the SAG Constitution. Hmmm, I believe we can find something about this in the rules and regulations section. Let’s see. “Son-of-a-gun they are right!” Section, (1.) of the SAG Constitution reads,

(1.) “No member, with the exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger, shall work as a performer or make an agreement to work as a performer for any producer who has not executed a basic minimum agreement with the Guild which is in full force and effect.”

Not !!

Then of course, since this mysterious “Nineties” Board ruling must have been in full effect during the 2000 strike! I’m sure you all remember the stories in the trades on this matter of wavered political announcements at that time!

The trades were full of stories about giving a pass to political announcements.

“HOLLYWOOD — Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has made peace with striking union actors with an interim agreement allowing union actors to perform in Bush campaign spots.

“Thanks to a cooperative effort, we were able to reach an understanding that made us comfortable proceeding forward under the terms of the agreement,” said Mark McKinnon, media director of Bush for President.

The Agreement, signed by Maverick Media with the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, covers radio and TV ads.

Accord brings to a close more than two months of attacks by SAG and AFTRA against the Bush campaign over its decision to shoot a pair of non-union ads after its media consultant, Stevens & Schriefer Group, had signed an interim deal in early May. The unions began a PR blitz against Bush on the final day of the Republican convention in Philadelphia (Daily Variety, Aug. 4)”.

But, but, wait, maybe the current leadership doesn’t know about “2000 thingy” uproar concerning non-union political spots!

Well, of course, Melissa wouldn’t know! After all she was too busy caring for her terminally ill dog during the strike to get involved!

Then, of course, David White SAG lead legal beagle wasn’t around thenah, you know what it all boils down to is that back then our union was run by a group of militants that just didn’t know how to “go along to get along.”

By gum, if they had just spent one day looking for that board ruling they could have avoided all that bad press.

Oh, but just to assure you that our current leadership is not afraid to get tough, I understand that if they can get the name of that rank and file member that went out for that Schwarzenegger non-union spot they are ready to file charges against him!

But, the bottom line is this! Probably most of the media that calls them will fall for their “Board-ruling” cover-story without every asking to see it, and the whole thing will just die! At least, I understand that is what they are counting on!

In the meantime, we are stuck with leadership that thinks it’s all right for a high-profile member, who, ah, also happens to be the governor, to break the rules while they are more than willing to go after the little guy who’s trying to pay his rentand still do the right thing!

Oh, by the way it won’t be too taxing for you to spot that public service spot that the current leadership is giving Arnold a pass on all you have to do is drink it in.

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

PS, I have sent an email to Seth Oster, SAG’s Deputy National Executive Director for Communications, for a copy of their “convenient” Nineties board ruling, and as promised if I receive it, I will post it on the Watchdog Website! In the meantime don’t hold your breath!

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Watchdog Exclusive Is California’s Governator, SAG’s Girlie Man

April 19, 2005 (20:21) | 2005 | By: Arlin Miller

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According to a Watchdog source, Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Governor, and SAG Member, is appearing in a non-union commercial.

The Ol’ Dog got this information from a SAG member who say’s that about a month ago he auditioned for a commercial that he was told would feature a politician! He also learned that it was non-union–paying a flat fee of $500 dollars.

After the audition he informed his agent that he wasn’t interested in doing non-union commercials. You can imagine his shock when the commercial entitled “Taxes” actually begin showing on TV and he realized that the politician appearing in the non-union commercial, that he refused to work, was California Governor, and fellow SAG member, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So, unless something changed between the time of his audition and now, it appears that the Governor, who is a SAG member, is doing a non-union spot–and can be brought up on charges.

The question is “who is going to do that? Hey, don’t look at me, I have always been a little partial to the Gov since once circuitously getting got a yummy Cuban cigar from him, ah, gulp, besides I’ve seen the “Terminator!”

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF ! and, ah, Girlie Man!

PS, The Ol’ Dog will try and contact the Governor’s office on Monday for a response to this story…ah, or maybe he’ll contact me! Gulp,again!

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Standing up to the Vid-gamers! Some will! Some won’t!

April 19, 2005 (20:21) | 2005 | By: Arlin Miller

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Voice Actors Seek a Share of Video Game Profits

Performers who want residuals for hit titles will vote on whether to authorize a strike.

By Richard Verrier
LA Times Staff Writer

June 3, 2005

Lynnanne Zager screams for a living.

In “The Passion of the Christ,” the actress voiced angry women screaming in Aramaic at Jesus before his crucifixion. In “Titanic,” her distressed cries were heard as passengers plunged into the chilly seas. In “Shrek,” she screeched at the sight of the ogre.

Perhaps her most strenuous voice-over gig was a four-hour session for a video game. Zager’s signature shrieks can be heard in the upcoming “The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction” as panicked pedestrians flee the monster.

“It was so intensive,” Zager said. “I lost my voice for an hour and a half.”

The price of her laryngitis: $900, a fraction of the $10,000 she earned from “Shrek.” That discrepancy in pay is the reason Zager and other actors now are raising their voices to complain about how much they are paid by game publishers.

With video game sales soaring to $25 billion worldwide, actors say it’s time for game publishers to start sharing the wealth by paying actors residuals on sales when a game becomes a hit. As it stands now, they receive a flat session fee.

On Tuesday, about 2,000 actors affected by a contract with game publishers will vote on whether to authorize union leaders to call a strike against such major companies as Electronic Arts Inc. and Activision Inc.

“It is impossible to get around the fact that professional actors contribute significantly to the enormous revenues that video game companies enjoy,” said Seth Oster, speaking on behalf of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Game publishers argue that their current offer is generous. They resist sharing their profits, contending that voice actors play a small part in the development of a video game and aren’t the reason consumers buy them.

Attorney Howard Fabrick, who heads a negotiating committee representing eight game publishers, said that granting residuals would open the door to requests from scores of others in the game development chain.

“That would set a precedent for hundreds of other people who created a game to say, ‘What about us?’ ” Fabrick said.

Last month, the two actors’ unions rejected a final offer from the game publishers that included a proposed 35% increase in the session rate for voice-over actors an increase to $750 from $556 per four-hour session by 2008. But union officials said that the offer masked what had been paltry increases over the last 12 years.

The chief sticking point: Publishers balked at a union proposal that would pay workers extra session fees when games sell more than 400,000 units.

The labor dispute comes at a delicate time for game publishers, who are increasingly courting Hollywood stars in an effort to make their games more like movies, with studio-quality storytelling, effects and acting. SAG’s Oster said nine out of the top 10 games last year featured actors working under the union contract.

Activision is developing a game based on 20th Century Fox’s upcoming film “Fantastic Four” that includes star Jessica Alba. Electronic Arts tapped Sean Connery to reprise his role as James Bond in a video game version of the film “From Russia With Love.”

SAG and AFTRA have never struck the video game industry. Their last walkout against any industry came in 2000 during a six-month strike against advertisers over pay for commercials.

Analysts believe a strike would not seriously harm game makers. They note that new titles for 2005 are mostly complete, and the companies will have little difficulty finding replacement workers.

“It will have zero impact,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles.

Game publishers are ready to reach out to casting directors, acting academies and voice-over schools for potential nonunion talent, said negotiator Fabrick, who noted that only about 15% of all video games involved actors working under the union contract.

“At the end of the day, it’s not like the United Auto Workers walking out of General Motors,” he said.

But Oster said actors stick together during work stoppages, which would hurt the companies.

Still, the prospect of a strike has divided actors, even those who sympathize with the cause. They argue that the unions lack clout with game makers.

“We don’t have the kind of control that we need to win this thing,” said Denny Delk,(left photo) president of AFTRA’s San Francisco branch.

Actors are hoping to gain sympathy by pointing out that those most affected aren’t stars such as Connery and Alba, but working actors such as Zager and David Sobolov.

Known as “Voice Guy,” Sobolov, 40,(right photo) has voiced a number of top-selling games, including a jewel thief in Activision’s “Spider-Man 2″ that generated more than $120 million in sales.

“To walk away with $556 and change on a video game like ‘Spider-Man 2′ just doesn’t cut it,” said Sobolov, who is on SAG’s negotiating committee.

As for Zager, 50, a single mother of two teenagers, she said the work should pay fairly for the amount of effort she puts into her roles.

“I wouldn’t be able to live off the money I make from video games even though I work just as hard,” Zager said.

(For other LA Times stories go to www.latimes.com)

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF ! “Willing but NOT Allowed!” More on that later!

*Ms. Zager’s photo by Times’ Gary Friedman.(Photo Cropped) The article was also formatted for SW purposes including the additional photos of Mr.Delk and Mr. Sobolov!

For a great post on this subject, CLICK LINKS above…then Click on SAG Actor Bulletin Board once there, Click on “SAG Actor Bulletin board” in THE MAIN FORUM and check out the post entitled “The Interactive Strike Vote!”

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