Members express concern over proposal

Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild decided Tuesday to stall for a month before making a final decision on the union’s troubled deal with talent agents.

SAG’s national executive committee, meeting at its Los Angeles headquarters, voted to refer the agreement back to its national board when that body’s two sections meet on April 3 and 10.

The committee did not vote on a previously announced proposal by SAG president William Daniels to send the agreement — a two-year waiver of its charter that would grant expanded powers to agents in exchange for expanded protections for actors — to a vote of SAG’s 97,000 members.

Deal not final

In an attempt to obtain the charter waiver, the Assn. of Talent Agents agreed to all 25 proposals made by SAG on Feb. 16, but Daniels has insisted the deal was not finalized, since SAG’s national board had left two proposals open to negotiation by the executive committee.

ATA executive director Karen Stuart said Tuesday she was “disappointed” by the executive committee’s move but would not comment further, until the ATA’s strategic planning committee meets today.

Since announcing three weeks ago that the deal was not completed, Daniels has staged meetings with high-profile SAG members such as Warren Beatty, Charlton Heston, Holly Hunter, Vince Vaughn and Alfre Woodard to gather their views.

Members concerned

“The national executive committee decided to refer this matter to the board after many members — especially our most visible ones — expressed concerns about the proposed waiver,” Daniels said after Tuesday’s vote. “Given the waiver’s importance, we felt it was crucial to allow the board and the membership more time to consider this important issue.”

SAG’s national board has three options — conclude the deal, throw it out or put it to a vote of the membership. Daniels, who left halfway through the three-hour meeting because of work on the series “Boy Meets World,” indicated he will not publicly advocate a specific course for the board.

However, ATA may have run out of patience. Stuart had said, in a strongly worded letter prior to the meeting, that the ATA would be forced to review its options if SAG’s executive committee did not endorse the Feb. 16 agreement.

Those options could include putting the entire SAG-ATA contract up for negotiation or seeking legal action to compel SAG to sanction members who violate the contract by using managers who perform agent functions.

ATA had negotiated for a year to obtain the waiver, which would allow agents to invest in media and production companies, in order to compete with unregulated personal managers. Opponents of the waiver have argued that it creates conflicts of interest for agents.

David Jolliffe, SAG’s 11th vice president, called Tuesday’s vote “appropriate” since SAG had never signed off on a deal with ATA. “This is an organization that is run by the board of directors,” he added.

Jolliffe also said participants at the closed meeting criticized Mitch Ryan, who co-chairs SAG’s Agency Relations Committee, for a recent letter to SAG colleagues that labeled SAG’s reconsideration “a disgrace.” Jolliffe said it was “not appropriate” for Ryan, who helped negotiate the deal, to send the letter.

Daniels said SAG plans to hold several informational sessions for members on the issue prior to the national board meetings.

If ATA agrees to the delay, SAG’s leadership will have an opportunity to gauge its status among the rank-and-file, since members will be voting in the next three weeks on giving strike authorization to SAG negotiators in the current commercial contract talks.

Deadline for those ballots, which were mailed Tuesday to 135,000 members of SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, is March 28.

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