These stories will appear today in both our trade papers. Watchdog comments are highlighted.
Posted: Mon., Aug. 2, 2004, 10:00pm PT
Inside Move: Gilbert, Cromwell take on Pisano crix
Political slugfest engulfs SAG
By CLAUDE BRODESSER
Emotions continue to run high at SAG, with its president and secretary-treasurer responding forcefully Monday to legal actions taken by two guild members seeking to unhorse SAG chief exec Bob Pisano.
Last week, guild members Scott Wilson and Tom Bower submitted papers in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles seeking a court-enforced removal of Pisano as SAG’s chief negotiator. Duo contended Pisano’s membership on the board of the DVD rental company Netflix precludes him from negotiating an aggressive DVD residuals deal for SAG in upcoming negotiations with producers.
“SAG hired Bob not in spite of his background, but because of his background,” guild prexy Melissa Gilbert declared.
Aaahhh, but when they hired him, CEO Bob failed to mention that he had taken the owner of Netflix around to the major studios and helped him negotiate a kickback deal. He also portrayed Netflick as small potatoes company! Oh, by the way he recently sold some of his stock for over 2 million spuds!
Fair enough. But then things devolved into a political slugfest.
“Simply put, it is time for these individuals to move on,” Gilbert continued. “They should either accept that the facts do not support their claims or state the real reason they are going to such extraordinary lengths to weaken our union’s bargaining position at such a pivotal time.”
Hmmm, weakening our bargaining position includes rejecting Mr. Pisano? The guy that has already advised the negotiating committee that they should not go after an increase in the DVD pie—which results in over 50 percent of studios income from films.
Those real reasons, according to SAG’s secretary-treasurer James Cromwell, are personal. “This is nothing more than a personal vendetta with no correlation to genuine concerns regarding the health and strength of this union,” said Cromwell, calling the suit “baseless.”
“Less Dues more Muscle” Cromwell fails to substantiate his personal vendetta claim! However, Babe, I must admit that having a CEO that makes millions from his relationship with our bargaining adversaries is personal. Especially, when that relationship stands to take millions out of our pockets.
Meanwhile, Membership First activist David Jolliffe was unmoved by the unequivocal stance taken by Gilbert & Co. “I don’t take pleasure in disagreeing with Bob Pisano, but the truth is, Bob knows (Netflix) is a major problem for a lot of us, and he has yet to say to us, ‘I’m going to negotiate a good DVD deal for you.’ I’d just like someone to force us all to sit down in a room together, lock the door and say, ‘We’re not letting you out until you get your shit together!’ ”
Unfortunately, Pisano appears to have his shit together! It’s the Restore Respect SAG dominated board that doesn’t!
Jolliffe quickly added, “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Actually, the is answer NOT simply Pisano getting his shit together—but Pisano getting his shit together–packing it in a box and then GETTING OUT! Hopefully this suit will get that accomplished!
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Now this from the Hollywood Reporter
Aug. 03, 2004
Legal move against SAG’s Pisano
By Jesse Hiestand
Two SAG members who have repeatedly sought the resignation of national executive director/CEO Bob Pisano have launched a legal action in U.S. District Court to force his removal, the members confirmed Monday.
Scott Wilson said he and Tom Bower filed the paperwork last week because they believe that Pisano has a conflict of interest in being both the guild’s chief negotiator and on the board of online DVD rental company Netflix. Wilson declined further comment.
Labor law requires a judge to determine if the suit can proceed, according to SAG officials, who denounced the Wilson-Bower filing as a futile attempt to sidestep three independent investigations, each of which found that Pisano has no conflict of interest.
“It’s reprehensible,” SAG secretary-treasurer James Cromwell said. “We’ve had this vetted at great cost to the union by three outside law firms to avoid any impression that there might be a conflict. They have unequivocally said there is no conflict of interest.”
One of those firms by the way had made big bucks as SAG’s legal counsel during the Consolidation fiasco. It’s like one of SAG’s lawyers told the Ol’ Watch dog after our membership meeting at Wadsworth, “If you give me enough money, I’ll give you any opinion you want. Hmmm, do ya think that if Martha Stewart had been able to rely on a paid outside law firm she’d be scheduled to do time now?
Cromwell said the Netflix dispute is also misguided because it involves DVD rental revenue, not the sales-generated revenue that will be at issue when negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers get under way in the fall.
Ol’ Jamie fails to mention that not only do the major studios own a piece of Netflix but they also have a revenue sharing deal with them! A deal, by the way, that was set up byyep, you guessed itCEO Bob!
A copy of the Wilson-Bower filing was not available Monday.
The furor comes only two days after SAG’s national board voted 68%-32% to reiterate its confidence in Pisano as a leader and chief negotiator. That board, which is controlled by president Melissa Gilbert and her allies in the Restore Respect party, had hoped the vote of confidence would be the final word on Pisano’s value to the guild.
The national board acted in direct response to a June 14 vote by SAG’s Hollywood division board, which is controlled by the rival MembershipFirst faction. The Hollywood board resolution called for Pisano’s resignation because he spearheaded a proposed merger with AFTRA and dues increase, both of which members rejected by a small margin. The Hollywood board also cited the Pisano-Netflix controversy.
“We are quite familiar with the allegations, which we consider to be totally groundless,” SAG general counsel David White said. “While we understand that SAG is not a named defendant in the lawsuit, the union intends to participate vigorously in the suit to defend its legitimate institutional interests to have the negotiator of its choice represent SAG members in the upcoming critical negotiations with producers.”
Hey, good idea! Let’s spend more of our dues money to defend a guy who’s already wasted millions of it on failed referendums, like the ATA/ NATR debacle and the Consolidation scam. Let’s waste more of our dues money defending a Netflix board director who has made millions on his DVD stock while advising US to reject asking for increased DVD revenue, ah, because it would be a deal breaker. Hmmm, whose deal might it break? His or Ours! Then of course, we could always vote out the DIFFIDENT Restore Respect crowd in favor of the Membership First slate— and Pisano would be out on his a*ss —and we wouldn’t have to waste our dues money—because David White wants to defend him!
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief