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Guilds’ digital disharmony

SAG asks AFL-CIO for help in AFTRA row

Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild have asked the AFL-CIO to intervene in its bitter jurisdictional dispute with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

Move could trigger a formal adjudication by the labor federation on the issue of which union has the right to organize TV shows shot on digital.

SAG, AFTRA and the AFL-CIO had no comment about the guild’s initiative. SAG’s top leaders flew to Chicago last week for a meeting with AFL-CIO prexy John Sweeney about the conflict with AFTRA.

SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg and national exec director Doug Allen attended the meeting along with deputy national exec directors Pamm Fair and general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. Rosenberg also sits on the AFL-CIO executive council.

Allen has been pressuring AFTRA this year over the need to work out a better system of determining which union covers what in areas of shared jurisdiction. SAG leaders have been angered over AFTRA agreements for lower-cost provisions such as free reruns on cable shows; AFTRA contends that it should make these deals with cable networks to prevent producers from going non-union.

For its part, AFTRA’s been distancing itself from SAG recently. AFTRA’s national board voted last month to seek a direct affiliation with the AFL-CIO and end its longtime affiliation with the Associated Actors and Artistes of America, an umbrella org that belongs to the AFL-CIO and includes SAG; AFTRA then announced formation of a strategic alliance with the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which has been critical of SAG policies in the past.

SAG’s also been trying to persuade AFTRA to allocate it more seats at the bargaining table at upcoming contract negotiations, in line with the 90% of earnings SAG members generate, rather than the current 50-50 allocation.

SAG’s board also recently re-vamped its voting system for guild reps on the negotiating committee, imposing a system of bloc voting under which the majority of votes will be allocated all the SAG votes.

AFTRA exec director Kim Roberts Hedgepeth and president Roberta Reardon protested that move, alleging it would result in deadlocks and that it goes against the spirit of the 1981 agreement under which the unions jointly negotiate contracts. AFTRA spokesman John Hinrichs said Monday that SAG hasn’t responded to its concerns.

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