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SAG to pay for joint offices

Move reflects hope for AFTRA marriage

SAG’s elected leadership looks to be holding out hope for a merger with AFTRA.

The SAG national executive board on Sunday voting to spend $315,000 to defray costs associated with jointly operating six offices with AFTRA from May 1-Oct. 30, 2003.

The offices are located in San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore. Several had been skedded for shuttering in May under a governance plan announced by SAG chief exec Bob Pisano in June 2002.

Maureen Donnelly, a Gotham-based member of both SAG’s and AFTRA’s boards, made the motion, which passed in a split vote, according to insiders. Motion also called for the continued funding of the jointly operated offices until such time as a SAG/AFTRA merger could be effected, they said.

The jointly operated offices in Philadelphia, Dallas and Portland were to have been closed in May, according to the governance plan. Last June, SAG announced that it would reduce the offices it operates from 25 to 15 as part of a cost-cutting reorg aimed at saving $1.3 million annually. Reps for the 23 branch offices, which contain roughly 20% of SAG’s members, had attempted to block such moves.

A spokeswoman for SAG said the offices had not been closed on schedule because of a desire to wait until the vote on the SAG-AFTRA consolidation. The proposal was defeated in July, when just over 58% of SAG voters endorsed the deal, 2% short of the 60% required to pass it. AFTRA voters approved the consolidation.

SAG presidential candidate and activist Gordon Drake was dismayed by the board’s move Sunday.

“It’s a nod to the power of the voting block of the branch members outside of Hollywood,” said Drake. “We’re paying in arrears for offices that we’ve already agreed to close? It’s the tail wagging the dog. What you have is a lot of staff in what we affectionately call ‘fly-over’ parts of the country advising the board on how to vote.”

Shortly after being named the victor in an often contentious guild presidential election, re-elected SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert said that the outcome of the presidential vote reaffirmed support of the concept of a merger, which she had backed.

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