In a direct slap in the face to newly elected SAG President Alan Rosenberg and his Membership First slate, which is now the majority force in the National Board, (Former AFTRA NED) and current SAG NED Greg Hessinger ignored, or circumvented the intent of SAG’s Constitution and brought in two high priced executives from AFTRA–without consulting the newly constituted National Board.
Item: At the last membership meeting a couple of months ago, in mid JULY, when confronted with the question as to why we no longer had a cashier at the front desk to serve members paying their dues, SAG President Melissa Gilbert ended the conversation with
“WE DON’T HAVE THE MONEY!”
We’ll apparently we don’t have the money when it comes to serving the rank and file members, but according to AFTRA’s LM2 Reports, we certainly seem to have the money when it comes to padding the ranks of SAG’s Senior Staff. (The following figures were excerpted from the 2004 and 2005 AFTRA LM2s)
So, we don’t have the money for a cashier, we don’t have the money for the proper number of reps in the field, and we are understaffed when it comes to processing checks and getting them out to our members–but we do have the money to bring in two of Mr. Hessinger’s high priced buddies from AFTRA! Staff members whose combined annual salaries at AFTRA amount to 361,114 dollars. (I’m taking a wild guess here but, you think they might be getting a raise for coming to SAG) Three-year contracts that will cost SAG at least 1,083,342 dollars. Ah, but let’s not forget that a little over two months ago, Madame President Gilbert told us we DIDN’T HAVE THE MONEY FOR A CASHIER!
According to SAG’s LM2s, from 2000-2001 we had 510 staff employees, only SIX of which made over 100,000 Dollars.
Enter CEO Pisano. Restore Respect bragged that he trimmed the staff. Yes, he did. Unfortunately for the membership, he trimmed those who actually did the day-to-day work for the members–while at the same time, adding highly paid senior staff.
Check these numbers: LM2 for 2003-2004. Now, instead of 510 staff members, the staff had been reduced to 385. The only problem is that instead of only Six Senior staff members earning over 100 thousand dollars annually, we had TWENTY-EIGHT.
Yes, SAG’s staff has been reduced by 125, but thanks to Pisanonomics, staff salaries from 2000-2001 had INCREASED from $11,679,569 to $ 20,166,347 Dollars by 2003-2004!
Now, if you remember Membership First ran on this very issue. That we had too many high priced senior staff and not enough of the so-called worker bees that do much of the actual work for our members.
Even so, Mr. Hessinger pretends to be baffled as to why our new leadership is upset by his clandestine hiring action. He has actually said to them that he THOUGHT they would be happy! Yeah, right! We’ll instead of THINKING that they would be happy, why didn’t he actually ask them before committing over ONE MILLION of our dues dollars to two of his AFTRA Pals.
This alone is enough to wave “Sayonara” to Mr. Hessinger.
Consider this. The new WGA Leadership removed their Exec Director John McLean with this statement, “We had to compare John’s track record vs. that of someone who’s a professional organizer.” (Daily Variety 9/27/05)
Okay, let’s compare Greg Hessinger track record to an NED that we could actually trust.
To start with, he was put into place against the wishes of Membership First (They were virtually unanimous in voting against his hiring)
Then of course, this was done by Restore Respect/USAN leadership without going through the Search Committee, whose job it is to find the best possible applicants.
Forget the fact that Greg Hessinger came from financially strapped AFTRA, or that he was at the helm when AFTRA sold SAG down the river by giving the ATA/NATR the right to be their employers–one week before SAG was to vote on the same issue.
Then there is the consideration that by keeping Mr. Hessinger in his present job, we will for the first time in SAG’s history have an NED that was actually handpicked by a co-president and chief operating officer of our employers. (Robert Pisano you remember him. Now holds that office with the MPAA) That’s right, it was no secret that Greg Hessinger was Pisano’s boy!
“Pisano has been grooming Hessinger to be his replacement, people familiar with the situation said.” “It’s always been Bob’s hope to see Greg as his successor,” said one person close to the union. (3/2/05 Hollywood Reporter)
“Pisano, who became SAG’s leader on Sept. 11, 2001, long envisioned Hessinger, AFTRA national executive director for the past four years, as his replacement and worked to groom him for the top spot.” (3/2/05 BSW)
And let’s not forget our current NED’s record in regards to the Interactive Contract Negotiations. This from the SAG’s Bipartisan negotiating team (Only one of which was a Membership First Supporter.)
“We were then subjected to enormous pressure from S.A.G.’s leadership and given misleading legal information from S.A.G.’s leadership that ultimately coerced the committee into a unanimous acceptance of the producers’ offer.’ (Email to SAG’s Membership from Interactive Negotiating Team.)
Oh, and just to be absolutely clear on the matter, the leadership they’re talking about is Greg Hessinger.
How’s that for a record, folks. We have a bipartisan group of members going on the record that SAG’s NED Hessinger not only mislead but coerced our SAG negotiating team in order to get them to go along with his former AFTRA cohorts and accept the Interactive Producers’ “deal.”
Oh, and just to add insult to injury, according to Hessinger the only person he bothered to inform about his Million Dollar “deal” with his two former AFTRA cohorts was SAG President Melissa Gilbert.
He says she knew about the deal for months. Hmmm, months? You think, maybe Madame President knew about it at the recent membership meeting when she told the gathering that we didn’t have the money for a cashier?
So, there’s Mr. Hessinger’s record!
I’ve heard people say that we can’t afford to get him out as SAG’s NED! I say we can’t afford not to!
Oh, by the way, did you know that when the Restore Respect Board gave Mr. Hessinger the NED position, they signed him to a FOUR-YEAR CONTRACT! They obviously wanted to make it too expensive for the membership to get rid of him. And then what did Melissa, Cromwell, and Farrell do after saddling us with Hessinger for four years? Why they went back into the woodwork from which they came.
Fortunately, we have new leadership, Membership First.
The big question the Ol’ Dog is getting is “will they step up to the plate and LEAD?” I’m betting that they will! But one way or another, we should all have that answer in a couple of days.
It is the Ol’ Dog’s humble opinion that they need to act and act fast. They need to take decisive action just as the new WGA LEADERSHIP DID!
Now is not the time to worry about what Restore Respect/USAN/Campaign For Unity will say. Now is the time to stand up and fight for the membership! We cannot have an NED that misleads and coerces negotiating teams. Nor one that commits over a million of our dues dollars on contracts for his AFTRA pals, without even bothering to inform our National board! Nor one who holds back the announcement of such a deal until after the election so as not to damage the chances of his political cohorts.
BOTTOM LINE HOW CAN OUR NEW LEADERSHIP HAVE A NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR THAT THEY DON’T TRUST?
Speaking of trust! Our new leaders cannot even go to our legal staff for advise on the matter because of the same reason.
So, what can they do?
Well, according to the constitution:
So, with the power of the National Board, they now have the votes to request outside legal counsel to advise them on how best to deal with Mr. Hessinger and others on SAG’s Senior Staff.
They then need to take action–and immediately inform the membership by email the reasons for their actions.
In short they need to return our beloved guild to the people that should be running it.
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
Thanks to Terrence Beasor, “Mr. LM2” for all his research for this article.
* All Formatting is SW’s.
A parting thought. Should we have to pay-off Greg Hessinger, don’t just let him do nothin’! Hey, we still need that cashier! Do that, and the Ol’ Dog will guarantee that he pays his dues at 5757 from now on…ah, make that for the next four years!