SAG stalls ‘trade’ vote

Guild reducing offices from 25 to 15

SAG leaders have gone back to stalling in their ongoing impasse with Hollywood agents.

SAG’s national board balked Tuesday at moving forward on a “working in the trade” proposal that would limit which SAG members can vote to those directly affected.

Instead, the panel referred the proposal to the Guild Governance Review Committee.

That means the national board will not decide on the proposal — which would have enabled it to set “qualifications” for voting — until its October meeting. Composition of the panel may have changed significantly by then, since SAG is cutting the board from 107 to 72, with all but three seats up for election in September.

Agent talks on hold

The measure had been formulated by SAG’s agent relations committee, which has taken little action since the April vote. Had the national board voted up the measure, it might have re-launched negotiations with agents since such a move would have addressed one of the key agent complaints about SAG — that nonworking actors may have been the key component in spurning the revamp in SAG’s expired master franchise agreement.

Only 30% of SAG’s 98,000 members are repped by agents, and 23% of guild members did not work at all during 1996-2000.

But several board members have objected to the “working in the trade” proposal as undemocratic.

The vote against the franchise agreement revamp, which would have eased ownership restrictions for agencies, has left state rules as the only regs governing interactions between SAG members and talent agents, with no new negotiations scheduled.

Leaders of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have complicated the situation by approving a similar revamp of AFTRA’s master franchise agreement.

10 sites sacked

In another development, SAG officially announced Tuesday it will reduce the offices it operates from 25 to 15 as part of a cost-cutting reorg aimed at saving $1.3 million annually.

The move, announced by SAG chief Bob Pisano, had been widely expected in the wake of recent expense reductions at SAG’s Hollywood headquarters and its New York branch.

Reps for the 23 branch offices, which contain 21% of SAG’s 98,000 members, had attempted to block such moves in recent weeks but were unable to generate enough support among other board members to sway Pisano.

“The objectives of this new structure are to refocus our resources into organizing and job creation for members, contract enforcement and member services,” Pisano said. “The restructuring is part of the ongoing restructuring of the entire administrative infrastructure of the Guild, which commenced last October.”

3 regional offices

The plan calls for a trio of regional headquarters in Chicago, Miami and San Francisco along with district exec offices in Atlanta, Austin, Bethesda, Md., Boston, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Orlando, Phoenix and Seattle. The Bethesda, Chicago and San Francisco offices will continue to be operated as joint operations with AFTRA and the Miami office will remain in the same location but the other nine offices will open in new locations in those cities as smaller “executive office suites” with access to meeting rooms.

The Austin office will replace SAG offices in Dallas and Houston and SAG will shutter operations in Las Vegas; Minneapolis; Nashville; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; and Wilmington, N.C. The Guild will also cease providing support to AFTRA offices in Cleveland and St. Louis that administered the SAG contract.

San Diego closure

About 54% of SAG members are repped from the Hollywood office while Gotham accounts for another 25%. Of the offices to be closed, San Diego has the largest membership count at more than 1,200.

SAG stressed it will continue to represent members in cities where it is closing offices through the remaining regional and district offices. The plan goes into effect immediately and is targeted for completion on April 30.

SAG announced a week ago it had promoted longtime Florida exec Hollis Batchelor to the post of deputy national exec director for organization, branch management and education to replace the retiring John Sucke.

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