After reading this op-ed piece by Ed Asner in the LA Times, I felt that Mr. Asner had spoken for me.
Yes, the guild is for me. And I am for the guild. Because of the guild, I have received a pension, a healthy amount of residuals along with numerous other benefits. And most of those things were not of my doing, but because SAG members that came before me, stood up to employers to form this union, to get pension & health, and the life’s blood of actors, residuals.
And now, in an act of expediency, there are actors that are willing to sacrifice all of that to keep working, at any cost. Their credo is..
Anyway, here is Mr. Asner’s wonderful piece.
From the Los Angeles Times
Ed Asner on SAG’s choice
Former SAG president Ed Asner says actors in the union can’t take the deal that is being offered.
By Ed Asner
December 28, 2008
“If you stand together, you cannot lose. Actors cannot be beaten except by actors. The guild is for you, and you must be for the guild. Stand together.”
Eddie Cantor, president, Screen Actors Guild, at the guild’s first annual membership meeting, El Capitan Theater, Hollywood, May 13, 1934
The guild is for me, and I am for the guild.
One of the singular privileges of my life is having served as president of my union. No laurels ever bestowed upon me meant as much. I love my union, and it has taken good care of me throughout my acting career.
But I now fear for the future of the Screen Actors Guild and for the acting profession.
Over the years, I’ve been accused of being crusty, crotchety, curmudgeonly and stubborn. And those were the nicer adjectives. Today, I embrace such descriptions, speaking with both my brain and my
Our guild has been trying for several months to get a realistic contract signed with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — an association representing the eight global conglomerates that control movies and television. Meanwhile, the question “Why not just take the deal?” is being uttered from all corners.
We can’t take this deal because it will destroy the ability of actors to earn a living. Not top-earning stars, of course, but the hardworking players whose faces you see in countless television shows and movies. I can’t in good conscience stand down and let that happen. Almost all informed actors, including some recent outspoken A-listers, agree that what’s being offered is inadequate for SAG members. But many of them still won’t vote to authorize a strike. Do they realize how their go along to get along attitude will affect their brothers and sisters?
What all of those with weak knees fail to acknowledge is that the business plan for new media is being written right now, and that what we agree to now will become the “template” that the industry will cling to going forward, with no obligation to make charitable revisions. Why does that matter so much? Because right now, you can go to your local Best Buy, purchase a big-screen TV with a direct Internet connection and download television online programming with the touch of a remote. It’s happening now.
Actors simply can’t afford to be cut out of the emerging revenue stream. The offer in new media is a lot of zeros, unfortunately not lined up in a row. It includes zero minimum compensation, zero overtime, zero residuals structure, zero forced call consideration — pretty much zero everything. This deal will take billions of dollars out of actors’ pockets in the same way our bad deal in home video and DVDs has cost actors $4.5 billion in lost compensation over the last 27 years, according to estimates compiled by the Writers Guild of America.
In addition, the offer on the table guts the contract of its force majeure provision, which has been a protection since the first contract was signed more than 70 years ago. The provision ensures actors get compensated fairly if a production shuts down because of an “act of God.” (And by “God” I don’t mean the wealthy CEOs who run the media conglomerates or their attorneys at the AMPTP.)
Now that you have the background, let me directly answer the question that is on everyone’s minds with eight solid reasons, one for every conglomerate we’re collectively disputing:
Why now? Because this really isn’t the renegotiation of an old contract but a business plan for an all-new one. Once the plan is organized and instituted, it will be almost impossible to radically change it.
Why now? Because the rollbacks to our contract are immediate. What working person would willingly give away protections they’ve always had? Or give up an income source,in this case,residuals,they’ve always relied on to make ends meet?
Why now? Because otherwise we neuter our ability to bargain not just this contract now and in the future, but other contracts as well. Strong shows of union solidarity are what we need desperately in these uncertain times.
Why now? Because the illogical optimism out there about SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists uniting and the economy being better in three years doesn’t hold. We have no guarantees of either, although I have high hopes that actors will find a new resolve as we face common threats.
Why now? Because we are tactically in a better position now than if we wait. The moguls will have a lot of explaining to do to their institutional investors if a strike occurs that they easily could have headed off.
Why now? Because if we accept this deal, we knowingly give up future income important to our survival, particularly in the form of residuals, which we’ll never get back as television and other media transition to new media.
Why now? Because the worst-case scenario now is not nearly as bad as the worst-case scenario for the future. Would you rather be out of work temporarily or squeezed out of the profession entirely because it no longer pays a living wage?
Why now? Because they want to sow doubt and fear. If we play into it, it will be the seminal moment that marked the dissolution of our union. We will look back with terrible regret for having stood by and done nothing.
When it comes to union negotiations,the only negotiating strategy that makes sense is to get the best deal for your members. Nobody at SAG has called for a strike, just an authorization to be used at our national board’s discretion. Nobody at SAG wants a strike.We just want a fair deal for actors and the same opportunity to negotiate as any other guild. We want a deal that doesn’t include rollbacks,addresses our specific needs and that allows us to share in the success of new media when that success inevitably arrives.
One of our former guild presidents recently wrote that it’s not the right time to strike. She may feel that taking that uncertainty for management off the table is an effective form of negotiating. There are a lot of us who are older and wiser, and who know better.
Fortune has smiled on me, and I have had a good run. The same opportunity may not be there for tomorrow’s actor.
I am for the guild, and the guild is for me. Let’s stand together.
(Ed Asner has been a member of the Screen Actors Guild since 1955 and served as its president from 1981 to 1985.)
I have never personally met Mr. Asner, although I saw him numerous times walking right along with other SAG members in the picket lines of the 2000 commercial strike. On, the other hand, I never once saw Melissa Gilbert, either on the picket line, or for that matter, supporting her union brothers and sisters in any way during the strike.
Now, this is not to say that Ms. Gilbert did not have her excuses for not showing up at one single union function during the entire 6 month strike.
In, fact she sent out the following email during her candidacy for SAG President in 2001.
I must admit when I first read it, I thought it was a cruel hoax being played out on her. But, no, it was the real thing. I realized then that this woman was so involved with herself that she actually thought the ‘humorous’ excuses she gave for deserting her union in its time of need were valid.
I invite you to read it, and then compare it to Mr. Asner’s heartfelt article, and decide for yourself who speaks for you as a loyal member of the greatest actors guild in the world; a man with the pro union convictions of Mr. Asner, or a woman with the obvious Me First, self-involvement of Ms. Gilbert.
Here is Ms. Gilbert’s email:
By Melissa Gilbert
…As for my participation in the strike. I have said that those few months were very busy for me as I was working and dealing with family issues.
My name is on the contract campaign and although, I wanted to participate, I was unable to. The fact is that I was only asked to be at two events and my schedule wouldn’t allow my attendance.
I can say that whatever guilt feelings I had were calmed when I saw so many recognizable faces out there.
I am also proud and moved by the commitment from the branches. Without the tremendous national turnout things would have been a lot different. There are many new board members who did participate in strike activities. In fact, their activities during the strike were the first time that they got involved with the guild at all. That is not the case with me. I worked on the guild’s legislative endeavors extensively for years before the strike. That has been my response to the question of my participation up to this point.
Unfortunately it has not been enough for some people. So, I went through my 2000 date book. What follows is a general accounting of my life for those six months:
Early April – I was filming a pilot for Aaron Spelling
Mid April – I had bone graft surgery on my jaw
and was unable to go out in public for weeks.
Late April – I was in a lawsuit filed by the people who bought my old house.
Early May – I was in Houston celebrating my son’s birthday. He lives there with my ex-husband.
Mid May to late May – I was here celebrating my birthday, my husband’s birthday & flying in-laws in and out of town.
June – My kids were out of school and my nanny quit.
Late June- I was helping my newly divorced best friend care for her family after she had surgery.
July – I spent the month nursing my husband after he had knee surgery.
August – I began construction on my new home.
September-October – I was on location shooting a movie for CBS.
During all of this I was caring for a terminally ill dog.
I really don’t feel that what goes on in my life is anyone’s business. Unfortunately divulging this information seems to be the only way I can get my point across. My opponents are using that fact that
I did not participate in the strike as a campaign tool. They have said nothing about my platform or my views. It kind of makes me think that if this is all they can say about me, then maybe everything I am saying is right.
I thank you for your concern about our union. I thank you for your involvement. I want to leave you with one last thing. Whether I am president or not, I am on the board for two more years and I will continue to fight for what I and many people believe is best for our union and its members.
Thank you again,
This gal is wasting her time as an actress, she should be writing the top ten ‘reasons’ bits for David Letterman.
In her op-ed piece Ms. Gilbert cries out “Now is not the time to strike!”
Hmmmmaybe she’s got another sick dog. You think?
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
*All Formatting is SW’s,
Happy New Year