I have done a couple of posts about a small group of mostly voice-over actors, AFTRA board members and delegates who seem to want to give ATA agents whatever their hearts desire –no matter the cost to our guild.
The following article, from air personality and voice actor Keri Tombazian, was posted on the SAG Firebird Website and illustrates her and her groups concerns and suggested remedies to the current ATA stalemate.
(The SAG Firebird, USAN linked website, contains a lot of anti Alan Rosenberg statements including the one that refers to his “Fascists actions.”),
National Agents Relations Committee
Doug Allen, Executive Director
Alan Rosenberg, President
I commend you for your hard work and extend thanks for being willing to take it on the road in meetings with members to bring us up to date and to get direction from the membership. Thank you for taking the time to review this correspondence regarding the pressing issue of what to do about our relationship with the ATA.
My points are three-fold:
a) The need for this issue to be resolved by the affected membership via qualified voting.
b) The effects of the Guild interfering with the member’s ability to maintain our relationships with agents and thereby interfering with our ability to work.
c) The prescient facts of the current Franchised Agreement between AFTRA and the ATA as relates to the future of negotiations between SAG and the ATA.
Regarding qualified voting.
There is a very real need to limit the vote on this issue to those of us members with agents; otherwise, the principle stakeholders’ votes will be moot. In a member-wide referendum, even if ever working/represented actor returned a ballot, the aspiring, the retired, the hobbyist, and the background performer would outnumber us.
Us? Ah, I see it’s US against THEM. The first step in solidarity, right? You’ve all heard of the “Membership First” party, Ms. Tombazian and her group should call themselves the “Us First” Party. Hey, there’s a sardonic thought. Let’s take away the vote of three-fourths of our members. Let’s lay the groundwork for 85 thousand fi-core members. But, but why would those who lose their vote go fi-core? (Members who go fi-core become dues paying non-members, and lose their right to vote.) Hey, let’s give them a nudge. Smart! Yeah, and those aspiring actors, screw them, right? You think the ones that become stars, might say screw SAG later down the line when we need their support? Naw! And those retired actors, like those on the cover of the current Screen Actors Magazine, let’s toss them on the non-voting rubbish heap. (Let’s just forget that many retirees put their careers on the line so that we could have residuals and P&H,) Oh, and all you background people, stay in the background away from that ballot box. You see agents don’t want you to vote, and, and, they should make our rules according to the “Us First” gang.
This would result in the marginalization of the principle stakeholder. Background performers do not even use agents. We must stop thinking of “the aspiring, retired, the hobbyist and background performer” as dirty words.
Right, let’s just turn them into non-entities. Let’s turn three-fourths of our members into second-class members. Hey, and before you know it, we will have a second-class union. It’s amazing how some members feel a sense of entitlement just because they currently happen to be making a few bucks and have an agent. The bottom line is this. Any agreements made with the ATA now, will not be exclusive to current members, but, rather just as agreements of the past mandating residuals and P&H, they will effect future generations of members, who will either benefit or be saddled with any agreement struck with the ATA. This is not a decision to be made by a self-appointed few but, rather, by every member of our guild.
Each of us came into the business greeted by contracts about which we had no say. Each of us will ultimately retire and the contracts we voted on will expire. In our ever-changing business, those who have first hand knowledge, experience, and most importantly, a present-day stake in the outcomes must make the decisions about issues with such immediate impact.
I don’t know about you, but until I take my last breath, I will have a stake in this union. I will still be getting residuals, pension and health and all the other benefits that come with being a proud SAG member. Benefits, by the way, which I probably wouldn’t have if it weren’t for those who came before me. And most probably wouldn’t have if the attitudes expressed by Ms. Tombazian and her “Us Firsters” had prevailed among those members who preceded me. Hey, here’s a wild spiritual thought. I say that those who founded this union, at great peril to their careers, continue to have a stake in this union. Just as those who will follow us have a stake in how those of us, lucky enough to be members now, conduct ourselves on behalf of our guild.
Regarding the Guild vs. the Member In the talkback at the SAG presentation to on-camera and voice over performers, member after member said in no uncertain terms that we do not want SAG to make us choose between our Agents and the Guild.
Now that’s funny! Most of the speakers at those talkbacks were the result of a preplanned agenda to pad the speakers list with those from their small group–and now Ms. Tombazian is quoting them, as if they represented the voice of the entire membership. Actually, Ms. Tombazian, and all those who’ve taken up the ATA mantra of being forced to “Choose between their union and agent,” seem to have forgotten that they made that choice when they joined SAG. In fact we all agreed to obey the rules. These rules are not only the source of our protection but our strength.
Mr. Allen said that he had no intention of making us choose, explaining his plan to go after the signatories (such as Sony, etc.) Let us say, for a moment that the Guild would be within legal rights to sue the producers. Legal or not, this would absolutely make the member choose between the Guild and our agent, because while you are going after the producers in court, the work would slip away from us.
Oh, yeah! Right! Producers are going to use non-union actors in all those movies, TV shows, and commercials. Hello? If they could do that, they’d be doing it right now. By the way Mr. Allen said nothing about going after producers. He said that just like many other unions, including the NFLPA, it would be part of our collective bargaining agreement that signatories could only deal with franchised agents, if they want to hire SAG members.
Our mortgages must be paid; our families must eat.
Hello! Agents have mortgages and hungry families, and they ain’t gonna be able take care of either if they ain’t got no clients.
There are so many forces taking work opportunities away from the journeyman actor: runaway production, non-union production, Fi-core and right-to-work, and a painfully shrinking body of work being produced. The Guild must not become a force against the actor. It must not become a stumbling block to the actor’s ability to earn a living.
There’s a unique thought. Our union becomes a stumbling block to the actor’s ability to earn a living. Now, call me a wild idealist, but I’m betting that without our union, none of those who are professing that we give into agents would even be able to make a living if they had to depend on their agents to set minimums, and negotiate them residuals. You think? In fact, I have been told by many actors, who have been offered lousy internet deals, that the extent of their agents negotiating on their behalf has been to inform them that “If they don’t take it the deal, someone else will.”
This is precisely why some members have filed fi-core to date: because they perceive the Guild as having lost its focus on its main task. That is to organize new work, and to negotiate contracts that include changing technologies and work paradigms, which do not fit outdated models.
Hmmm, and here I thought that they had gone fi-core because they couldn’t quite cut it when competing with bona fide SAG actors. So to give themselves that little, teeny weenie extra edge, they went fi-core, so that they could still work that occasional union job while picking up a little extra dough working non-union, where, ah, shall we say they have a little less competition.
I would hold the Guild responsible for any and all work lost to the time-sucker of litigation. Please do not make me choose.
Please, don’t make her choose? Huh? Life is about choices, isn’t it? By choosing to join SAG, she made a choice to obey its rules in order to receive its benefits and protections. Should she choose to disobey those rules, she is always free to leave the union. Ms. Tombazian misses the point. The reason that we have a union in the first place, is so that members are not forced into the precarious position of making individual choices such as this. Our guild, collectively, makes the choice. In this case, that leaves the decision-making were it belongs, in the agents court. Do they want to enjoy the privilege of representing SAG members-or not? But, since Ms. Tombazian and her cohorts seem so intent on making the choice between their union and their agents, our Watchdog Agents’ Relations Editor, and graduate of the Actors’ School Of Hard Knocks, Ivan Thorue DeMille, has compiled a list of what both entities do, in order to assist Ms. Tombazian and other “Us Firsters” in their decision making.
Here’s your two choices.
Screen Actors Guild: Bargains with employers for minimums, overtime, residuals, P&H, and various other particulars. The guild also offers members services, and various protections too numerous to mention here. It makes it possible for members to receive a pension and health benefits. It has a credit union. It has a staff of hundreds to insure that you get your money, residual checks, health and pension benefits, etc. etc. Let’s face it, kiddies, without your union, you would be in some deep do-do.
Check here to choose your guild_________
Your agents call you for auditions. You agents also call you for bookings. And they write you when they drop you.
Check here to choose your agent___________
Okay, maybe Ivan underplayed what agents do, a tad, but the truth is that even though your guild may not seem to have the same impact on your daily lives as your agent, it is working, behind the scenes, every day to make sure that after your agent calls to tell you that you’ve booked that job–you are fairly compensated, treated, and that your rights as a member are protected! Look, as great as many agents are, and I have been fortunate to have a couple of terrific ones, the fact is that our guild is a constant in our careers, while agents have a tendency to come and go!
Regarding the implications of AFTRA’s Franchised Agreement with the ATA The Franchised Agreement between AFTRA and the ATA is working. There have been zero reports of problems resulting from this agreement.
Probably because everyone has pretty much ignored it–until just recently when the William Morris agency informed their actor clients that they were availing themselves of its ownership policy. And you know that they are proud of their AFTRA “deal” because they warned those clients. “”Avoid disclosing this information to any other persons.”
In fact, as it is virtually the same agreement that SAG put forth in the referendum vote in 2002, one can look back in hindsight and say, hey, we got it right!
Actually, you got it wrong! It was the membership that got it right. They voted it down in referendum. SAG members want to work with their agents, NOT FOR THEM!
Any agreement put forth by SAG that has less favorable terms than the terms in the AFTRA agreement is one more incentive for new works to be done digitally and under the jurisdiction of AFTRA.
Hmmm, and here I thought we were talking about an agency agreement. In her zeal, Ms. Tombazian seems to have forgotten that no matter how much she may wish for it, the ATA ain’t our employers. Look, the only incentive producers have to work under AFTRA contracts is because currently they can get SAG actors through the backdoor of AFTRA’s inferior contracts. Giveaway contracts that take money out of actors’ pockets–and put it in their and AFTRA’s pockets.
Furthermore, there are many of us who believe not only in the practicality of commission paid on DVD residuals etc, but in fact we believe in the principle of our agents receiving such commission. Furthermore we are not against expanded, regulated financial interest in heretofore nontraditional revenue streams.
Are you beginning to sense that there is nothing Ms. Tombazian and her group won’t give up to appease agents. I have never heard them mention anything that they wouldn’t sacrifice on your behalf to appease their agents. Hmmm, maybe if they choose their agent over their union and work without their unions’ protections, they might eventually come up with something. You think?
In Conclusion It is my fervent hope that the committee will be willing to hear what we have said regarding the Franchised agreement between ATA and SAG and take heed. To ignore us and continue on the path toward litigation where the court will be the ultimate arbiter of our relationship with our agents is not an option.
Actually, it is an option and a very effective one. Just go on “Google” and write the words, “Lew WassermanBobby KennedyMCA”
Asking members to do the work of “organizing” our agents by promulgating an agreement without benefit of negotiations is not an option.
Ah, actually, again. It is a very effective option. As, I point out below, it worked like a charm when our union was formed.
The ATA has already rejected such an idea.
You think that might be because they foolishly believe that Ms. Tombazian and her small compliant group represent the backbone of our entire membership. Agents are not stupid (they know that without actors they have nothing.) Just as they weren’t stupid back in 1939, when SAG promulgated an agreement with them! Likewise actors are not stupid! At least, not back in the Thirties, when the Producers Motion Picture code would have mandated that agents be licensed by the studios. In effect, they would’ve been working for management, instead for their actor clients.
David Pringle in his excellent book, “The Politics of Glamour” explains it in the following excerpt,
“in order to protect its members from unscrupulous practicesone of the regulations had been a provision forbidding agencies to produce motion pictures. The reasons for this prohibition are clear. If agents employ actors, who are also their clients in one of their films, they are functioning both as management and as a representative of labor. Their responsibility as agents is to get as much money for their clients as possible, but their incentive as producers is to hold salaries to a minimum. SAG’s rules eliminated the possibility of this conflict of interest.”
Ah, as you were saying, Keri?
In either of these scenarios, the union burdens the actor by making him the fall guy.
Ah, shucks, it ain’t the falling part that’s so disconcerting, but, but, rather the bending-over part that Ms. Tombazian’s acquiescence would entail.
Please do not let SAG become yet another impediment to the actor’s already Herculean task of keeping our careers moving and finding meaningful work.
The Ol’ Dog knows and has worked with Ms. Tombazian. She is a talented and successful lady, who would have no trouble finding another agent should her agent decide to no longer represent SAG actors. On the other hand if her guild went out of business, I doubt that she could find another union that would get her the comparable money or the benefits that she gets through SAG. Of course, I suppose members could always take that deal offered by producers back in 1939. Naw!
Huh? What about AFTRA?
Now that’s funny.
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
Who could vote in an agency referendum under qualified voting?
It’s a bit ironic that Ms. Tombazian and friends are so intent on implementing Qualified Voting on the ATA issue because according to 16 G, SAG’s Codified Agency Regulations, franchised agents are required to send SAG a copy of the agreement between the agent and his/her client.
And since, this is how SAG is able to verify whether members have agents, it appears that under qualified voting, only those with SAG verified representation (franchised agents who comply with the above stipulation) would be allowed to vote on any agency issue in referendum.
Although the Ol’ Dog is on record as opposing Qualified Voting (“You pays your dues! You vote, is my policy) I must admit it would be a bit of a Retributive Romp to see those that want to implement qualified voting on this issue, to be subjected to their own stipulations in order to prove they have a agent–and receive a ballot
The following is the proposed affidavit formulated under President Melissa Gilbert’s leadership.
Qualified Voting Affidavit
I, _____________________________, (please print clearly) am a current member of the Screen Actors Guild (“SAG”). My SAG member ID number is___________________ (please print clearly).
Check One: I am currently being represented by the following agency
_________________________________ (please print clearly) under an oral representation agreement.
I hereby attest to the following: I have been represented by one or more agents in connection with employment under S.A.G.’s jurisdiction within the last five (5) years from the date of execution of this document, and I have paid at least two thousand ($2000) dollars in commissions to such agent(s) in connection with such representation.
I, the undersigned, declare, under penalty of perjury of the laws of the
state of __________________________ (insert state where signed), that the above-stated facts are true and correct.
SAG Performer Signature