It had been a long afternoon, made even longer by those who wanted to make this meeting as excruciating as possible. They had planned for those of us, thirsty for answers from our leadership, by denying us a more basic thirst—there was no water. And for those ‘camels” among us hanging in there, they had even thrown in a forty-five minute infomercial on “Identity Theft.” It was a not too subtle attempt to discourage those members who had arrived early to sign up for the Open Mike segment of the meeting.

For the most part their delaying tactics had been successful. By the time for Open Mike, the capacity crowd had dwindled down to a half-full auditorium . The “reports” had taken their toll! But the big winner in emptying the place had been the “Identify Theft” Segment. Standing in the lobby with about forty or fifty other attendees waiting for it to end, I noticed a “plethora” of less stalwart members “bailing” out onto the sidewalk. Well, they may not learn about the dues extension, a non-union waiver for foreign commercials, FTAC, or other pressing issues facing our union, but you could be damn sure they wouldn’t give their social security number to the parking attendant.

As my bud, Mike Farrell called my name from the dais, I stood up and confidently approached the “Open Mike.” I contemplated my pocket watch waiting for the tension in the room to build, and then at the perfect moment began in a strong, clear, resonant voice “During last Novembers Annual Membership Meeting, President Gilbert made a very serious allegation directed toward OPPONENTS of Consolidation when she said that If you don’t think a lot of the infighting between SAG and AFTRA is created by our employers and THEIR EMBEDDED UNIONBUSTERS, you’re fooling yourself!

In light of these Embedded Union Busters, CREATED by Our Employers, I assume that in the last four months since President Gilbert’s unsubstantiated serious allegation, there has been an extensive investigation in order to identify them and root them out!

Could you update us on the progress of that investigation– and identify, if any, those detected Embedded Union Buster members Created by Our Employers?”

The palpable tension was dissipated by nervous laughter as Mike Farrell, James Cromwell and CEO Bob Pisano each looked to the other to answer the question. Finally, Farrell mumbled that perhaps I had quoted Melissa out of context. “What context?” someone called out. “Read it again!” another member encouraged. So, I obliged– but there was no further response from the dais. Sothere was No investigation, No Embedded Union Busters, and No support for President Gilbert’s outrageous statement. What can you say? Basically, Bob, Mike and Jamie left poor Missing Melissa hung out to dry.

While MG flapped in the wind, I segued into my second question “I have been told that at the behest of SAG’s New York Division President Eilene Henry—-this administration continues to grant a waiver for her and other members to do Non-Union Commercials for “Made-in Played-in” foreign markets—would anyone wish to comment on this?”

With a group shrug, the dais’suddenly mute ‘mnage a trios’ feigned ignorance. Ah, and no they didn’t seem to “wish to comment.” So, Staff member Sallie Weaver jumped up and fielded this one. Non-union “made-in/played-in” foreign commercials? Never heard of any such thing!!! In fact, she took the time to emphatically proclaim that if any SAG member knew of any such unsavory SAG member doing non-union “made-in played-in” foreign commercials, they should immediately contact SAG. Yikes! She was sooooo sincere that I felt bad about even mentioning such a despicable possibility. But, then again, ahhhhhmore to come on this one!

Time for one more question. I mentioned to Mr. Farrell that I had been told that he and Restore Respect board members, at the behest of Branch Board members, had voted “YES” to give themselves a six month “extension” to pay their dues! Not only that but that I had heard that they had refused to RECORD their vote. This while the Membership First Slate had voted “NO” against the dues “Extension”–and they had RECORDED their vote!

I went on to say that “I can understand not recording your vote to protect yourselves from reprisals from our employers, but in this case you seem to be PROTECTING YOURSELVES FROM THE VERY MEMBERS THAT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO ANSWER TO— AND SERVE!”

Well, this one got to Mike! He expanded like a Blowfish and blurted out that he didn’t appreciate my partisanship! Huh? This from Mr. “Misanthrope!” I reminded him that I was simply asking a question for his response. Instead of responding, he ‘deflected’ to SAG Lawyer David White who gave us an extended dissertation on the “Troubled” Board Dues Extension Amendment.

When Mr. White finally finished, I got back to the question at hand “why had Mr. Farrell and his fellow RR board members refused to go on record with their “Yes” vote?” Mike stated that as far as he knew he had recorded his vote. James Cromwell chimed in that “All’ votes are RECORDED!. You see, the meeting is tape recorded for later transcription So, yes, I guess “Less Dues/More Muscle” had me on that one!”

Anyway, in a grandiose gesture, Mike announced for the entire hall that I could check the “minutes” for myself at SAG. And, I can. Unfortunately, after my request the next day for said minutes, I was informed that I’d have to wait until the next plenary after the board had approved them. Uh, I’ll get back to you in about a month on that one, folks.

The Board Members Dues “Extension” was addressed again, this time by Terrence Beasor. He asked about the recent series of amendments to the Constitution that would extend Board Members “grace period” in which their dues must be paid from 45 days to 6 months minus 1 day. He reminded those present that although board members would not be cleared to work or even attend this meeting they WOULD BE ALLOWED to sit on the board and vote on issues that affect the personal and professional lives of all members of this Guild.

He finished with “In light of President Gilbert’s admonition that we should ‘Get to know’ our Board members, what they stand for, and how they comport themselves.” shouldn’t we also know if they are eligible to attend a simple membership meeting?

Well, this got David White up to podium again. And from listening to Mr. White you would have thought this “Dues Thingy” was far from a done deal. It was still in the discussion stage. NOT! You see, Mr. Beasor didn’t let it drop there! During the next two days he was involved in a series of conversations with SAG officials—ah, and guess what folks? It is a DONE DEAL.

BOARD MEMBERS CAN CURRENTLY SIT ON THE BOARD WITH UP TO SIX MONTHS, MINUS ONE DAY, TO PAY THEIR DUES!

On the other hand, to run for the board, the same forty-five day rule that applies to the rest of us, applies to potential candidates. So, it’s NOW like this. You have to pay your dues on time to run for the board but once you get on it, BABY, YOU’VE GOT UP TO SIX MONTHS, MINUS ONE DAY, TO PAY *money

Hmmm, so the next time you meet a board member, why not ask them how they voted on this Little Dues-Zee. Oh and another suggestion. If you are asking a question of any SAG official these days, you’d better make sure that your question is very exact—or YOU’LL GET SPUN! Ah, and better get your response in writing!

As I was driving home after the meeting I asked myself “If there had been a lot of Tap Dancing going on up there on that dais? Duh?”

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !

* The photo of the man at the mike is not actually A.L. but a well-fed look-a-like!