SAG board on a diet

Guild leaders agree to cut panel from 107 to 62

HOLLYWOOD — In a rare move toward unity, leaders of the Screen Actors Guild have agreed to cut the size of the national board from 107 to 62 and give Hollywood reps a thin majority on the panel.

In a 95-2 vote following five hours of debate Saturday, the board agreed to a complex governance plan to start next fall with the goal of saving as much as $700,000 in annual costs, according to last year’s Towers Perrin cost-benefit analysis. SAG’s 98,500 members will be asked to vote in the change at a yet-to-be-decided date.

“I’m pleased the national board has recognized the need to provide a more responsive governance structure,” SAG prexy William Daniels said.

Key part of the plan calls for a 62-seat structure even though 71 reps will be attending each meeting. Weighted voting will mean there will be a total of 138 votes. Hollywood and New York reps will receive 2.23 votes while the 16 smaller regional branches receive a single vote.

Giving the smaller branches a whole vote rather than a fractional one was essential to gaining the support of their reps and many others for the plan, according to Denver prexy David Hartley-Margolin.

“We felt it was critically important that the board be cognizant of differences in each of the local markets,” added Hartley-Margolin, who was part of the governance team that hammered out the plan. “Had the branches been given fractional votes, it would have sent a bad message to members in the smaller branches.”

The new board will be divided up based on a census next spring, although SAG exec Sallie Weaver said the body will likely be highly similar to the approved guidelines:

  • Hollywood members, repping 53.44% of SAG’s 98,000 members, will receive 32 of 62 seats. Hollywood currently holds 46% of seats.

  • New York will have 15 seats, repping 25% of members.

  • The president, the secretary-treasurer will each have a vote.

  • The remaining 20 regional branches will share 13 seats, repping 21.56%. Florida and Chicago get two seats each, San Francisco and Washington one seat each and the remaining 16 branches a total of seven seats. But each branch will send a rep to national meetings and the weighted voting will give each of those reps a whole vote.

  • Every seat will be up for election next fall (except for president, secretary and treasurer, whose terms will be two years following this fall’s election) before returning to a third of the seats every year. The plan also calls for the board to be reapportioned every two years if there are changes in the membership.

  • The current 12 VPs will be replaced by three, one each for Hollywood, Gotham and the branches.

  • The secretary and treasurer posts will be merged into a single post.

  • Tightened qualifications for board service will include a requirement that dues be paid up.

Weaver also said the governance team will explore adding work requirements for members to serve on the board.

The governance issue had been divisive, with the board split 52-50 in April and then twice delaying the revamp. That led to Hollywood activists bringing the matter directly to members through a referendum petition that organizers say had received over half the required signatures of 10% of the membership.

Gordon Drake, who had led the petition drive, said he planned to shelve it. “What the board has done is a good plan that is helping create a new sense of unity,” said Drake, who was serving as a replacement board member.

The confab at the Sheraton Universal also marked the first meeting attended by new CEO Bob Pisano, who said he had been impressed with the civility of the elected leaders. “Rumors of disagreement and disunity have been greatly exaggerated,” he said during a break. “I’ve been pleased that discussion has been on a civilized basis and that people have been able to disagree without being disagreeable. And I think the board has taken a giant step on governance.”

Pisano addressed the board at the start of Saturday’s meeting and recapped his sweeping reorganization of operations. “My plan has always been premised on being a national organization with executives having national responsibility but always looking for local solutions,” he added.

Pisano plans to continue his top-down review of operations but disclosed that no cuts in the size of the SAG staff, currently at about 400, are planned.

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