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SAG sacks six offices in cutback

Regional closures not unexpected as guild tightens belt

SAG chief Bob Pisano has decided to shut down offices in Atlanta, Cleveland, Houston, Portland, St. Louis and Seattle as part of his top-to-bottom reorg.

SAG had no official comment about the closures, but Pisano is expected to announce his decision at today’s national board meeting.

The move will shutter some of the smallest of SAG’s 23 regional branches. Internal SAG figures show the largest branch to close will be Seattle, with 797 members, followed by Atlanta with 582, Portland with 377, Houston with 342 and both Cleveland and St. Louis with 146 each.

Move follows similar cost-cutting measures that have been imposed at the Hollywood headquarters and the New York branch, including elimination of midlevel slots at both locations and reduction of the amount of space allocated for a new Gotham office.

The closures had been expected, as SAG indicated last month it was exploring the possibility of operating without physical offices in some of its branch cities (Daily Variety, June 11). Chief financial officer Francesca Hickson had warned the national board in April of coming cuts as part of efforts to “turn around” SAG’s finances.

Towers blueprint

The possibility of regional office closures emerged two years ago when SAG received a cost-benefit analysis from the Towers Perrin consulting firm that recommended keeping just six regional offices open. The report proposed that each location serve at least 4,000 members, with those served by the closed offices redirected to the regional sites.

Towers Perrin suggested that Los Angeles remain headquarters, with Chicago and New York also staying open; Boston, Dallas, Denver, Miami and San Francisco were contenders as other regional offices. Towers Perrin argued that new technology could enable SAG to maintain a presence with field reps in cities with shuttered offices.

The remaining SAG branches would be in Bethesda, Md.; Detroit; Honolulu; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Diego; and Wilmington, N.C. The Cleveland and St. Louis offices are operated by the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, with AFTRA administering the SAG contracts.

Hollywood reps 54% of SAG’s 98,000 members, and New York accounts for another 25%, leaving the other 23 offices to handle the remaining 21% of members. The prospect of closures has sparked campaigns by officers repping the smaller branches, with the key argument being that SAG risks seeing more work performed by non-union actors.

The agents issue

The SAG board also is facing a recommendation today from its agent relations committee to institute a “working in the trade” requirement for voting by SAG members. Agents have complained that nonworking actors were allowed to vote when SAG members spurned a proposed revamp of SAG’s master franchise agreement with agents in April.

Monday’s board meeting included debate over creation of an AFTRA relations committee as the first step in sorting out such issues as jurisdiction. New York reps strongly opposed a motion by SAG’s Hollywood board to not allow members who sit on both the SAG and AFTRA national boards to serve on the new committee.

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