I had debated with myself whether or not to attend the information meeting on the proposed extension. After all, the last “Informational” meeting had been more “Infomercial” than Informational.
Infomercial aside, everyone knew that this “informational” meeting was basically a sham. Like a studio set, it might appear to be the real thing, but the sad truth was that it was more for show than substance. Otherwise why would it be held a full sixteen days after the ballots had been sent out, especially in light of the fact that research has shown that the majority of members who intend to vote do so within in the first seven days.
Obviously, the only info the current leadership wanted out, had already gotten out in those 15 pages of extension propaganda in both the Ballot Brochure and its supplement the Screen Actors Magazine.
Besides, didn’t everyone know after reading another Mike Farrell column that those who dare to disagree are Craven.
Actually they are misanthropically, Craven!
But, what the hell, even knowing all this, I still decided to make an appearance— since I am truly a dedicated Union Man. Ah, besides there were no Friday night fights. Damn! And, where the hell is Max?
Rushing from an audition, I arrived at the Cagney room about 25 minutes late! Double Damn! I had missed the Power Point Presentation! And CEO Bob does those so well!
Oh well, I settled down as SAG Board member, David Jolliffe was rapping up the Con statement? Huh, what the hell was going on? They were actually allowing someone who opposed the extension on the dais. This was certainly a refreshing change from the last meeting I had attended where no one opposing Consolidation was allowed even close to the damn thing. But I’ll be damn, there was David along with Melissa, CEO Bob, Sallie Weaver and AFTRA’s Joan Halpern Weise!
As David was speaking, I gave the high sign to SW’s expert transcriber Shorty Hahn as he diligently scribbled away.
In his summation David made some excellent points for rejecting this proposed extension!
–we are letting another year go by and we’re not only NOT extending the current rateswe’re losing ground!
–He touched on the misstatement in the Actors magazine which stated that digital dramatic shows were of equal status with network shows! Not true—or the residuals would be the same— instead of being less than half !
–We drop from the current 3.5% ‘minimum’s’ increase …down to 2.5%!
–No increase in DVD residuals, no increase in residual pay structure, even though the WGA and DGA already have a better deal than SAG.
–This is the first time in anyone’s memory that a contract proposal has not been qualified with a Dollar figure! We don’t know how much this contract is worth!
–On the other hand, if we increased our DVD residual share by a mere 20%, from 1% to 1.2%, it could bring us in an additional 40 million dollars in revenue from the the multi-billion dollar DVD market!!! [
Other pertinent points during the ensuing meeting were brought out by Kent McCord, Robert Amico, Russell McConnell and your humble editor and chief.
—The provision that allows producers, subject to the consent of the performer, to credit over-scale payments against residuals puts the performers in the tentative position with the people that employee them! Instead of their union standing up for them, it creates a slippery slope where members are left to fend for themselves!
—A producer on a digital series may lift from an over-scale performance, and use any three minute portion of it on any ensuing shows— and only pay the performer scale..
–the inequity of “SAG & AFTRA Only” members each getting a vote–while “Dual” members are limited to a single vote. The opposite of the board room–where a dual AFTRA/SAG Board Member gets TWO Votes.
–It was confirmed, as first reported here on SW, that CEO Bob indeed gets a ‘Running Tally’ on how the vote is going. This while the election on this billion dollar contract is not being supervised by one single SAG or AFTRA member–as is done with all other SAG elections.
–This Digital Deal will not affect a single show now on TV. These shows will continue to pay the same low rates.
–There is only one new digital show scheduled for the up coming season and it is not a dramatic show and therefore will not be affected by the deal.
–Although, it was reported in the Hollywood Reporter way back in August of 2003 that Melissa and Company would be seeking an Indefinite Extension so as to pursue Consolidation—this Extension had absolutely nothing to do with Consolidation! (Hmmm)
–Forget about this Historical Agreement solving jurisdictional issues. According to Mr. Pisano even if this Extension passes, there will still be jurisdictional problems! Yes, once it’s time for Consolidation, again, you can rest assured that it will still be the Wild West out there.
Okay, I’ve saved the best for last. Up until now every thing had been rather dispassionate and laid back— then Hollywood Board Member Leigh French got up, and changed all that. Her words where not only passionate, but funny and poignant, while laced with irony and humor! She was interrupted through out her speech with laughter and applause.
Leigh hesitantly began to speak into the mike “I’d just like to say that in context of the information that we were given to justify this extension, I’ve heard four times the word critical issues; we have critical issues coming up in the fall. I’ve heard there is a ‘plethora’ of other things that we have to deal witha plethora of things to deal with. I’ve heard there are important breakthroughs that we need to deal with in the fall. Given that there is a plethora, given that there are critical issues, given that there are important things that need to be broken throughas an active full time member of this union for many years, I feel let down that the leadership didn’t go in there— and get me a three year contract.
I expected a three year contract! I didn’t expect a one year extension! I don’t understand using the semantics of using the word extension. I don’t like it as an actor or performer in this union. I feel like I’m only covering my ass for one year—knowing that the producers know about these critical issues, they know about this plethora, they know about these important breakthroughs”
(During the loud applause, I looked over at my trusty transcriber Shorty. His pencil and paper were on the floor as he enthusiastically laughed and applauded. Yikes it was up to me. I continued to desperately scribble my notes. In fact as I look at them now I see that “Lee” continued to applause when she “sid”.}
“they’ve known about it for a year, and I don’t think giving the producers the advantage of a year serves me! I’m serving them! I’m not here to serve them! I’m here to get everybody better health care, better pensions, better wages. And WE’RE doing a digital agreement for..NO shows!!!”
Other excerpts from Lee’s , ah, Leigh’s speech included:
“—Don’t ever, ever put in writing that we’ll have to look a producer in the face, and say yea or nay to anything on that contract. We should only ever have to say I’m sorry but my contract won’t allow it. We know what happens when you don’t play along, and its only our contract that gives us any protection in these kinds of situations when so much is at stake in what we do and what we say with these people. I know what can happen when you say NO to these people.
–Bob you had the full power and support of this union to go in there and fight like hell for us—and you didn’t do that!
–We let down The Wages &Working Committee who busted their butts and came to agreement in solidarity with a package! And now what happens in one year— that’s all for nothing!!! We have to reelect a new board. We have to have a new Wages & Working Committee. We can’t use this one because it will be disbanded when this contract is over in a year.
— I don’t think it’s good that producers know this is only good for a year. And frankly, I also think that WE sold out the Writers Guild! Because they’re going in for DVD! If the Writers Guild doesn’t get itthe producers have got us to deal with.
—The performers are actually the strongest union in this town— if we’d ever step up, if we step up, they can’t do it without us!
—I’d like to see the producers buckle, if you could go back with a “No” vote– and get us the package. Get us the best deal you can get!!!”
Leigh sat down to an ovation that lasted a good solid minute! It was obvious that she had connected with these members who appreciated hearing the straight dope!
On the way home in my Ol’ Caddie, I puffed contentedly on my Aliados Robusto! Yes, it had been a great meeting. They actually let people speak out, and gave fairly straight forward answers. Could this be the new beginning of a fair exchange of ideas?
As the pungent smoke curled out the open crack in the window, I reflected on the prelude to this meeting. While, giving themselves fifteen pages of propaganda and limiting the Con statement to 350 words, they had already assured themselves a victory. But just to be on the safe side, the informational meeting had been delayed— until long after most members had voted.
And then of course, no matter what was ‘revealed’ at the informational meeting, it was information that only around a hundred members would be privy to.. No wonder that “Running Tally” Pisano smiled like the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary! It was obvious that this sucker was over!
The truth of the matter is that this meeting was nothing more than good membership relations! Give ’em a chance to ventand we can all go home happy.
Actually, I wasn’t all that happy as I made may way back to the Valley. Especially, after the sudden realization that any gains from this ‘historic new agreement’ would most likely be wiped out by what I’d spent on gas!
A.L. Miller SW’s Award Winning Editor & Chief.
Epilogue: Before Shorty resigned in disgrace, he asked if he could be fixed up with Leigh! I told him to push his pencil in another direction.