SAG president says he's trying to avert strike

Amid escalating worries about a possible actors strike next year, SAG president Alan Rosenberg has kicked his re-election campaign into high gear.

Rosenberg — who faces a challenge from Seymour Cassel, Charlie De La Pena and Barry Simmonds in next month’s contest — asserts he’s doing his best to defuse strike concerns while prepping SAG’s 120,000 members for what are certain to be contentious and complex negotiations next year.

“I have no desire to be a war-time president,” Rosenberg said in an interview Monday with Daily Variety. “But the stakes are so extraordinarily high that we have to start getting ready.”

Rosenberg, who topped Robert Conrad and Morgan Fairchild for the presidency two years ago, said he’s well aware of the town’s overriding concerns about a work stoppage. And he admits top execs have approached him, imploring him to prevent a strike when the SAG-AFTRA contract runs out next June 30 — a promise that he can’t make.

Rosenberg is quick to add he’s not pushing for a strike but he’s also not taking it off the table before negotiations even start, based on guidance from SAG national exec director Doug Allen.

“Doug puts it this way — if we’re not willing to strike, then we’re not involved in collective bargaining; we’re involved in collective begging,” he added.

At this point, Rosenberg admits, worries about the strike have led to a production acceleration. “What I’m telling actors is that if they are getting extra work, they shouldn’t treat it like a windfall,” he added.

Rosenberg, who’s worked extensively in TV dramas, has booked a part in “Righteous Kill,” opposite Robert De Niro and Al Pacino — for one day at scale.

SAG’s still at least five months away from sitting down to negotiate with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, the bargaining arm for studios and nets. The Writers Guild of America negotiations — which opened acrimoniously in mid-July — are expected to resume in mid-September with many observers dubious that the WGA will make a deal before its current contract expires Oct. 31.

The scribes and the AMPTP are expected to extend that contract, shifting the spotlight to SAG and the DGA. SAG and AFTRA have the additional headache of sorting out disagreements over SAG’s desire for more power on the joint negotiating committee, given the fact that SAG work contributes 90% of the earnings.

Rosenberg’s highlighted the negotiations via a recent email and postcard to members, stressing the need to present a united front at the bargaining table at a time when revenues from digital technologies are soaring.

“This will be one of the most significant years in the history of entertainment,” he noted. “This is our chance to finally achieve fair formulas in existing media, and to win jurisdiction and fair compensation in new platforms. Our failure in the past to fairly participate in the enormous profits generated by our work in this industry has caused a crisis for the middle-class performer.”

Rosenberg’s campaign materials also tout his work during the past two years in the areas of selecting a new exec director, trying to re-establish SAG oversight over major talent agents, achieving unity within the SAG board room and staff, and adding organizing and new-media departments.

Rosenberg also participated in a campaign fund-raiser over the weekend, organized by JoBeth Williams, with his wife Marg Helgenberger. Among those attending — former SAG president Ed Asner, Michael Dorn, Jorja Fox, Jasmine Guy, Rob Morrow, William Peterson, Victoria Tennant and Peter Wellman.

SAG election results will be announced Sept. 20.

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