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Another Watchdog EXCLUSIVE– and this one is HOT! The Ol’ Dog has sniffed out a bootlegged video copy of CEO Bob Pisano in rehearsal for the upcoming February 17th Proposed Contract Informational Meeting!

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

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Now everyone is aware that the current leadership spiel for members is that we will get ours tomorrow! We were persuaded to vote for the extension because we’d have a year to gear-up to go after DVD. Uh, well that didn’t happen, did it?

And now, we are being told that if we just vote for this contract with its revisionist rollbacks in residuals, copyright giveaway, and zero increase in our share of DVDs we will be in a stronger position in 3 years because of the coterminous alliance of the various guilds.

Yes, if we just wait until tomorrow!

Anyho’, the Ol’ Dog has sniffed out a bootlegged copy of CEO Bob in full-dress rehearsal for his upcoming appearance at the February 17th Informational Meeting’s *ideaPower Point Presentation to convince members to vote for this contract! Mr. Pisano’s voice is great– and beckons back to his little theater days in San Jose! (Although he is a tad stiff and could use a wee-bit more expression in his delivery.)

Please pardon the quality and sync problems of the video, which was surreptitiously shot using a second hand satellite videophone reputedly requisitioned from Geraldo Rivera’s trash bin.

Make sure your *sound sound is on then Click Geraldo’s videophone to view CEO Bob’s stunning performance! (It’s on a loop for continued enjoyment!)

Informational Meeting on Proposed TV/theatrical Meeting

Thursday, February 17 at 7:00 PM
Culver City Veteran Memorial Auditorium
4117 Overland Avenue, Culver City

“A Compliant Union is a good union!” Lew Wasserman, Chairman MCA.



Get out the Ol’ magnifying glass and read this proposed contract VERY CLOSELY! Here’s something else that you might of missed about the alleged 1% increase in PH!

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

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Like, we said whenever a paragraph in the ballot material begins with “In Order to” watch your backside and tightly squeeze your buttocks!

For instance on page 4 under the heading Sideletter Regarding ” Special Conditions For Pilots Or Presentations And New Series,” it reads:

In Order to promote the production of new dramatic programming, the 3% IACF/ICF *contribution and the increase in the contribution rate to the SAG Pension & Health Plans and AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds shall not apply to pilots or presentations produced on or after July 1, 2005 or to the first two seasons of any new one hour series exhibited on or after July 1, 2005.”

That’s right! ALL you new series performers will NOT get that extra 1% going into PH for the next TWO YEARS! Unfortunately even Jamie Cromwell was able to protect guest stars and day performers on this one. Yep! They drowned the whole family this time!

Are you beginning to get the idea that their proclaimed 1% increase in PH ain’t really an actual 1% percent increase? Much the same as the first year 3% increase ain’t really a 3% increase because it doesn’t start until three months into the contract. Ah, just as that Extra 10 million bucks for background players ain’t really 10 mil contract gain because most of it is paid for by the 7 million dollar payback engendered by those first three months of no increase in minimums. Now you see it! Now you don’t! With their slight of hand, these folks should be having their upcoming informational meeting at the Magic Castle! Ah, no wait that’s for benevolent wizards–not evil ones.

Oh, well get out the Ol’ magnifying glass and go at, before you vote on this–THE WORST CONTRACT IN SAG HISTORY!

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

*IACF/IFC are funds that are mutually beneficial to both the unions & the producers! The funds support such programs as monitoring, protection of animals on sets, young performers looking ahead programs, etc.



Watchdog Exclusive: You WON’T read this anywhere else! SAG Members KEPT IN DARK about how many MILLIONS OR BILLIONS OF DOLLARS their 1% increase in PH will COST them! Read the SENTENCE that SAG’s Leadership doesn’t want you to read– and then you decide way they LEFT IT OUT of your ballot material!

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

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Our current SAG/AFTRA leadership has ballyhooed this new contract proposal as the greatest thing since sliced bread! The only thing is–that the more closely one examines the material made available to the membership; the more one sees that the studios/producers are the ones that are getting the real dough! And that in itself is bad enough! But when an Ol Dog starts to scratch around and digs up things that THEY AREN’T TELLING THE MEMBERSHIP, then he’s got a real bone to pick! And that is the case with the proposed 1% increase that producers are ALLEGEDLY GIVING US!

Now I say allegedly, because it isn’t exactly clear whether they’re GIVING US ANYTHINGBUT THE SHAFT!

Now, in your ballot material under INCREASES IN CONTRIBUTIONS TO BENEFIT PLANS it reads, SAG Pension and health Plans Contribution Increases

“Producer contributions to the SAG Pension and Health plan will increase by 1% to 14.5% as of 7/1/05″

So, you figure, hey, we gained 1% percent in PH?! But hold on! Did we actually gain anything– or did we just sellout– at bargain basement prices? Let’s reread that line again. Only this time including what CEO Bob, Melissa and senior staff– LEFT OUT!

“Producer contributions to the SAG Pension and Health plan will increase by 1% to 14.5% as of 7/1/05.” The contributions generated by this increase shall include a buy-out of the Producers’ commitments with respect to the Copyright Term Extension law.”

So, much for the current leadership’s claim that THEY got us a 1% gain in our PH! THEY didn’t get us a damn thing! The Producers BOUGHT OUT A COMMITMENT TO US under the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. An act that extends the duration of US copyrights by TWENTY YEARS! An EXTRA Twenty years to make *moneyBILLIONS AND BILLIONS more off SAG members work!

Now, how much was that commitment worth to our members and their heirs? No one knows! Or no one is talking! Your SAG Membership First Negotiating Committee Members asked! But NO ONE would give them an answer. Not CEO Pisano. Not senior staff! And, certainly not AMPTP’ head negotiator Nick Counter. In fact, the lack of response on this issue was one of the prime reasons that they voted against this contract!

Would you vote for a deal that included a buy-out, that could deny our members *money Millions if not *money Billions of dollars down the road–without getting expert testimony on the potential worth of what you were giving up? Well, that’s what the “go-along-to-get-along” SAG Restore Respect and AFTRA negotiators did! And if we vote for it too, we could be screwing not only ourselves but our heirs and their heirs down the road.

Hey, some members may say, “No Big Deal!” And that is their right!


Apparently, not! At least according to the current leadership, that has turned our great union into the Secret Actors Guild!


A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief *

“A Compliant Union is a good union!” Lew Wasserman, Chairman MCA.



Dog Bites Cromwell!

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

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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 *moneySINGLE 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!


1989-1992: 4-4-4
1992-1995: 4-4-4
1995-1998 – 3.5-3.5-3.5
2001-2004: 3-3-3.5
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 *money BILLIONS! Perhaps we should all chip in an get James a subscription to the trades so that he can read about the *moneyBILLIONS 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! *butt

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 *moneyTWELVE DOLLARS the producers receive on a DVDTWELVE 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 *moneyA 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 *moneyCOUPLE 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 WOOF !

Formatting is SW’s!



The Most Repugnant Rollback in SAG History that will have an ongoing repulsive, revisionist residual affect on members’ pocketbooks! Added Bonus: Update from Hollywood Reporter! “Foes rally against actor contract!”

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

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There are many reasons NOT to vote for CEO Pisano’s, Melissa Gilbert’s and Restore Respect’s proposed TV/Theatrical Contract: No increase in DVD, the lowest 3 year minimums in SAG history, and their deceptive actions in denying members a real debate on this contract–by rejecting a true Minority Report!

But the preeminent reason for a “No” vote is because this proposed contract is a betrayal of a concept that past SAG members put their livelihoods on the line to achieve! And that is the concept that actors deserve to receive payment for the reuse of their work. Our SAG predecessors realized–that without residuals working actors could not make a decent living!

This from the 1960 history section of our SAG Website:

“SAG strike settlement results in residuals only for films commencing after January 31, 1960, but producers’ lump payment of $2.65 million creates the Guild’s first Pension and Welfare Plan!”

And since that historical victory, achieved through a strike, our right to residuals has been sacrosanct! So what has the current go-along-to-get-along leadership done? Not only have they NOT achieved any promised gains, that would give us our fair share of the Booming Billion DVD revenue pool, but they have come back to us FIVE MONTHS BEFORE OUR CURENT CONTRACTS EXPIRES-with a contract proposal that violates our most sacred tenet! It gives producers the right to reuse members’ work WITHOUT ANY PAYMENT!

Now to achieve this precedential giveaway, they have slyly NOT included a substantial portion of our VOTING membership! That would cost them votes! Instead they have singled out a select group of the most vulnerable of our membersseries regulars on NEW shows– TO GIVE UP THREE RESIDUAL PAYMENTS!

Why these actors? Well, most of them have finally gotten their big break, and aren’t in a good bargaining position to say “stuff it!” to their employers! And our “go-along-long-to-get-along” leadership realizes that there are not enough of them to affect a vote!

Conversely, they have apparently gotten gains for background players–a substantial VOTING portion of our membership! Hey, we are all happy to see any of our members get any deserved gains, but the truth is the bill is not being footed by producers, but by membership as a whole! That’s right the money is not coming out of producers pockets, but the memberships! (More on this later)

Now as to new series regulars giving up their residuals, I’m sure there are some who will say no big deal! It only affects a small segment of our membership! Well, the Ol’ dog thinks that it is a big deal! In fact, the Dog suspects that this giveaway is not really about the money! Those residuals are capped at $3,225 bucks a show! So, say there are 10 regulars; you are talking about $32,500 bucks a show! Does anyone seriously think that much money will make the difference in whether a show survives or not?

Nope, for producers, it ain’t about the money! It’s about the precedent! It’s about getting that pushy foot into the door

If this proposed contract is affirmed, we will have given away a lot more than $32,500 a show, for three shows, we will have opened the door to residual plundering! A fool hearty step that will definitely have a negative residual affect on our future incomes!


If we vote for this contract, we will not only be thumbing our noses at our union predecessors, who battled to get producers to pay residuals, but we will be cutting our own economic throats. (At the time, producers adamantly protested that they would NEVER concede to paying for the reuse of our work! They were intransigent on this: Just as producers now appear to be intransigent on sharing their Billion-dollar DVD windfall. Only back then THEY were the ones telling us what THEY wouldn’t give us, NOW it’s our own trembling leadership telling us!)


We need to get back to the bargaining table after this “Mother of all Rollbacks” is voted down, and get us a decent contractone that does not dishonor those who came before us, or diminish those that follow.

Added Bonus: Update from Hollywood Reporter!

“Foes rally against actor contract!”

By Jesse Hiestand

Hollywood Reporter

The argument against SAG/ AFTRA’s new contract is reinforced by the claim that “a no vote is not a vote to strike.”

That rallying cry sounded by contract opponents at a meeting Thursday in Hollywood is true in the strict sense: If members vote down the contract in this month’s referendum, it would force industry and union negotiators to resume bargaining ahead of the June 30 deadline. A work stoppage requires a separate strike-authorization vote.

Still, the anti-contract campaign rests on the risky assumption that talks simply will resume where they left off. Instead, there are growing indications that the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers will respond by withdrawing many of the current terms and making a point of offering actors a worse deal strike or no strike.

“If this contract is voted down, it increases the possibility of the producers totally revamping the entire compensation formula,” said one source familiar with the recent negotiations.

Contract opponents say they’ve heard those threats before, and, as one of their leaders noted, “Why would you think that a worse deal would get (approved by members) if this deal doesn’t go through?”

Still, the gamble is that that SAG/AFTRA can use the threat of a strike to force the studios and networks to offer better terms, possibly even a coveted increase in DVD residuals.

Sources say that just the opposite is likely: The studios and networks immediately will ramp up production in preparation for a work stoppage and take their time in getting back to the bargaining table. It is believed that AMPTP would wait until the last minute and then start negotiations from square one.

A new beginning is desirable as far as the contract opponents are concerned. They believe it is one of the worst deals in the union’s history, an offensive mix of rollbacks and embarrassingly weak gains.

In the “con statement” included on the ballots, members are urged to “vote no” because SAG/AFTRA agreed to waive residuals on certain early reruns of new television series, failed to get an increase in free-to-basic cable, made-for-basic cable or made-for-video residuals and, of course, did not force AMPTP to share more DVD revenue in the form of residuals.

“(A no vote) would send a strong message that what was negotiated isn’t something that’s acceptable to the membership, so get back to the table and make a deal,” said Kent McCord, one of the SAG negotiators who voted against the agreement. “I would assume that we can get a better deal to increase areas of this agreement, where if we weren’t going to get something like DVD, we could increase it in other areas that would make this thing palpable to members.”

SAG/AFTRA’s negotiating team approved the tentative deal by a 17-9 margin, and a joint union board accepted it by a 71.4%-28.6% margin. Members have the ultimate say, and a high-stakes battle for their votes is under way. Ballots are due Feb. 28.

Most of the opposition comes from leaders of SAG’s Hollywood division, who have long resisted the policies and practices of SAG president Melissa Gilbert and chief negotiator/CEO Bob Pisano. These opponents held their first anticontract rally Thursday night at the offices of Musicians Union Local 47 in Los Angeles.

As with the DVD issue, they are most angered by the residual waiver on new TV shows, something WGA and DGA also agreed to as part of an effort to nurture new series.

“2005 will go down as the year we allowed the rollback on the payment for the use of our members’ images,” McCord said. “We’ve broken the principle that we get paid for every run it’s a precedent they’ve now set.”

SAG/AFTRA’s leaders say opponents are trying to keep members from seeing the bigger picture, which is that AMPTP was willing to accept all of the unions’ demands, with the exception of DVD residuals, in order to avoid production disruptions. That was a major reason the networks and studios wanted to get this resolved months before the old deal expires.

In announcing the $200 million contract, Gilbert and AFTRA president John Connolly called it the most lucrative in the unions’ history. The three-year deal covering SAG’s TV/Theatrical contract and AFTRA’s Exhibit A would increase wages for every category of performer, expand jobs and wages for background actors, increase residuals for made-for-pay-TV projects, protect residuals for actors on the WB Network and UPN and bring in about $60 million in additional health- and pension-fund contributions.

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Ain’t it funny, how those who are pushing this “go-along-to-get-along” contract are so afraid of what the producers are going to do while never stopping to think that producers might be fearful of taking a big hit on their Billion dollar DVD Windfall.

Do you think the grocery workers would have had to go on strike if they controlled all the product that stocks the shelves of the major grocery store chains! And if they had of gone on strike how long would that strike have lasted! This negotiation ain’t the same as commercial strike! Studio and producers can’t replace Tom, Brad and Julia with scab wantabees!

As to stockpiling they aren’t going to get any major projects going because according to our own CEO and former studio exc. Bob Pisano that takes up to SIX MONTHS! And, should they do some stockpiling in the interim, as long as they don’t use farm animals, I say pay me now or pay me later! *money

Look, producers don’t want to rock their lucrative boat, notice how they responded to the hardline approach of the teamsters Jim Santangelo when he relayed a message from Teamsters president James Hoffa

“Whatever the cost, you will bring those people into our union — that’s what he said to me,” said Santangelo, directing his wrath at the studios and networks. “These people on Mahogany Row, who want to dictate and call all the shots, who say you are individual (contractors), I say kiss my ass. If we stick together, we will kick their ass. Believe me when I tell you about that.”

Ah, the AMPTP believed him!

Now, all we need to do is get back to the negotiating table with a “pucker-up” *luv mandate from our membership–and get down to the business of getting a fair contact that all of us can get behind!

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !



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