No holiday break for SAG

Battle over strike authorization continues

Even with much of the town now on vacation, the feverish battle over the SAG strike authorization vote will continue through the holidays.

Over the weekend, opponents added John and Ann Cusack, Jeff Garlin, George Lopez, Virginia Madsen, Susan Sarandon and Charlie Sheen to the roster of stars urging a no vote. As of Sunday afternoon, 1,373 members had endorsed the No SAG Strike petition, written three weeks ago by Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman.

Ballots go out to SAG’s 110,000 dues-current members on Jan. 2 and will be tallied Jan. 23. If the authorization’s affirmed by 75% of those voting, SAG could then go on strike if its national board — set to meet Jan. 24 — approves.

For its part, SAG’s planning to send a “vote yes” message to members as early as today, along with setting several more town hall meetings and adding video pitches from high-profile supporters to its website. SAG president Alan Rosenberg and national exec director Doug Allen have been warmly received at two Hollywood town halls but were vilified at last week’s raucous New York gathering.

SAG has attracted public support for the authorization via a solidarity statement on its website from 2,300 members including Laura Dern, Mel Gibson, Hal Holbrook, Holly Hunter, Matthew Madine, Sandra Oh and Charlie Sheen’s father, Martin Sheen. Guild leaders have accused the congloms of using the economic downturn to intimidate actors away from seeking a fair share of new-media revenues as content migrates to new digital platforms.

In addition to shining a spotlight on the ongoing power struggles within SAG, the strike referendum’s also become a de facto ratification vote on the 6-month-old final offer made by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. Rosenberg and Allen have admitted that if SAG fails to get the authorization, it would probably have to accept the final offer, made June 30 as SAG’s current contract expired.

The AMPTP’s insisted it won’t sweeten the deal, contending its terms are generous amid a recession and similar to deals signed this year by the DGA, WGA, AFTRA, IATSE and the casting directors. A counter on the AMPTP’s website said Sunday that SAG members have lost $40 million in pay gains they would have seen had guild leaders not spurned the offer.

SAG’s leaders have insisted that voting for authorization won’t necessarily lead to a strike but merely would push the congloms to improve their final offer. The companies and the “vote no” side have countered by asserting that SAG’s leaders are unlikely to compromise at the bargaining table and will go on strike if the authorization’s approved.

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