Inside Move: Gilbert allies gain in SAG

Board vote eases ATA baggage

Has the long summer taken the heat out of SAG hardliners?

The guild’s Sept. 23 board election suggests the winds have indeed shifted, and the logjam over agent relations may be breaking up.

Allies of SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert won a commanding margin after a campaign stressing the need to make a deal with agents and regain oversight of the tenpercenters through its master franchise agreement. The “Restore Respect” candidates contended the hardliners were preventing SAG from moving ahead; that obstruction has been mostly removed.

Insiders speculate that SAG execs will ask the new board to take two steps at its Oct. 12 meeting:

  • Seek approval to re-open negotiations with the Assn. of Talent Agents and the Natl. Assn. of Talent Representatives.

  • Endorse the position that a new SAG agreement with agents does not necessarily need approval by the notoriously unpredictable SAG membership. Though federal labor law requires that members vote on collective bargaining agreements, the argument would likely be that the SAG-ATA/NATR franchise agreement isn’t in that category.

Gilbert’s opponents won a surprise victory in April with a 55% “no” vote on the question of revamping SAG’s master franchise agreement. Their key concern was that loosened agency ownership rules could lead to conflicts of interest.

But with 63-year-old franchise agreement no longer in force, agents have been able to sign thesps to less restrictive General Service Agreements that allow bigger commissions. The new election results suggest members want SAG to fix the problem.

Eugene Boggs, a longtime boardroom gadfly, believes the election signals a monumental shift.

“You’re going to see a far less confrontational Screen Actors Guild,” says Boggs, a three-term independent who finished out of the running. “As a result, I predict there will be a deal with agents fairly soon, because the board won’t have the stomach to keep battling. My sense is the board is much more conservative now.”

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