Guild shifts into high gear over ATA deal

SAG staff continued Monday its spin campaign to sell the Guild’s tentative deal with the Assn. of Talent Agents to revamp the master franchise agreement.

Fresh from bringing on PR consultants Mark Fabiani and Chris Lehane to persuade SAG’s 98,000 members to endorse the agreement, SAG staff released an announcement that the tentative pact contains a $1 million Actor Theft Protection Fund. It has also hired a third PR consultant, former New York SAG PR chief Jayne Wallace, who quit her post two years ago due to rancor between staff and members.

SAG spokeswoman Ilyanne Kichaven said Wallace had been brought on for three months to revive the New York newsletter and aid in the campaign for the Global Rule One campaign against non-union work overseas. Part of the ATA deal calls for agents to help enforce Rule One and SAG staff has already claimed that the arrangement will create 3,000 new jobs over five years.

Moves have come during the latter stages of a bitter re-run election, which concludes Friday, with the main slates taking opposing positions on the deal. President Melissa Gilbert supports the deal as a way to preserve the franchise agreement while rival Valerie Harper contends that the relaxation of ownership rules for agencies represents an unacceptable conflict of interest.

Harper’s slate has also accused SAG staff of electioneering by campaigning for the deal during the election. The agreement was reached Feb. 22 and SAG staff has since issued a trio of press releases touting the benefits of the deal.

SAG said the portion of the agreement gives SAG the legal standing to rep performers in agency bankruptcies and noted that nearly $1 million in SAG member funds have been lost over the last five years due to agency bankruptcy and misappropriation. The fund will be comprised of $250,000 contributions from both SAG and the ATA/Natl. Assn. of Talent Representatives plus agent contributions of $300 each. Claims up to $250,000 will be paid directly by the Fund.

SAG treasurer Kent McCord said the terms creating fund are far less favorable to SAG than those negotiated in 2000. He characterized the press release as a “sleight of hand” designed to conceal such problems of allowing ad agencies to invest in talent agencies and the opening up two residual streams for commissions of $8 million a year.

McCord also said he was never informed of Wallace’s hiring nor how much SAG is paying Fabiani and Lehane, who pulled down $30,000 a month last year for advising Gov. Gray Davis, despite repeated requests to CEO Robert Pisano. “Even though I’m the treasurer, I’ve been taken totally out of the loop,” he added.

The three-year SAG/ATA pact, which has an effective date of July 1, goes to the SAG national board next Monday. If approved, it would then be submitted to the membership.

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