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Actors unions ‘Net member support

SAG, AFTRA use Web to solidify support

Hollywood’s actors unions have made extensive use of the Internet to solidify support for positions during current contract talks with advertisers, the first time the organizations have taken such a step.

“The growth of Internet usage has changed the expectations of how we communicate with our membership,” said Jayne Wallace, a spokeswoman for the Screen Actors Guild. “We felt that using our Web site (www.sag.org) has helped demystify the negotiations process and communicate more immediately with our members.”

SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (www.aftra.org) created an industry first in January when they posted their entire contract proposal along with proposals by the Assn. of American Advertising Agencies and the Assn. of National Advertisers. The organization used the sites, along with a first-ever e-mail from SAG president Williams Daniels to more than 15,000 members, to build support for half a dozen rallies and the union’s successful strike authorization vote.

“We think the sites have also been useful in dispelling rumors and in giving people a level of detail about what’s at stake rather than just saying that we’re in negotiations,” Wallace said. “We think it’s helped include members in the discussion of the issues.”

SAG launched its Web site two years ago and first employed a full-time Webmaster last summer. Late last week, on the eve of a contract expiration, both unions posted an announcement about the contract extension with the message “Continue to audition and work until further notice.”

Talks with advertisers will resume next week, but, if the discussions collapse and the SAG and AFTRA boards vote for a work stoppage, the unions would have to rely on a more traditional method than the Internet to inform their members. The unions would be required by their bylaws to give their members five days notice and to contact them through the U.S. mail.

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