Unite for Strength rejects majors' final offer

SAG’s national board — which often finds itself amid pitched internal battles — has received backing from the fledgling Unite for Strength faction over its stance that the majors’ final offer to the guild is unacceptable.

SAG’s board voted unanimously over the weekend that it could not endorse the new-media provisions in the AMPTP’s offer — singling out provisions allowing non-union work in low-budget productions along with a lack of a guarantee of residuals for new-media programs replayed on digital platforms.

Unite for Strength announced last week a slate of 31 Hollywood division candidates with the aim of wresting control of SAG’s board from the ruling Membership First faction. Despite its assertions that SAG’s leaders have mishandled the negotiations, Unite for Strength said it’s in step on the policy stance.

“United for Strength fully supports the recent SAG board motion reasserting SAG’s commitment to the core principle that it does not authorize our employers to make nonunion product under our contracts, regardless of the medium or budget level,” the group said Tuesday. “We believe SAG needs new leadership, but we also agree with SAG’s negotiators that actors need real gains from a new contract.”

Unite for Strength also said in the statement that it agrees that the original goals of SAG’s negotiating committee — including pay and mileage increases, increased pension and health contributions, residuals on new media, protection from product integration abuses, increased DVD residuals and preservation of force majeure protections.

“Unite for Strength believes actors should have all those protections and more,” the group said. “We support our families with SAG earnings, so getting the strongest deal for actors is our top priority. And we know our current negotiating team feels the same way.”

The move by Unite for Strength comes a day after SAG president Alan Rosenberg complained in a message to members about the deal’s multiplicity of shortcomings. The AMPTP issued an extensive rebuttal Monday, noting that SAG members are missing out on new-media residuals, which would be based on similar formulas to those contained in the DGA, WGA and AFTRA deals.

“The producers’ final offer would immediately give performers their first-ever residuals for ad-supported streaming and made-for-new-media programs while doubling the rate that has been paid for permanent downloads,” the AMPTP said Monday. “SAG members deserve to share in the same new-media revenue that the other guild members are already getting — and nothing short of a new contract will allow that to happen.”

The Unite for Strength missive did tweak Membership First by noting that Unite for Strength’s slate has advocated merging with AFTRA, which has negotiated separately from SAG following massive disagreements. And it claimed that because SAG is alone at the bargaining table, it has less leverage.

“That’s what Unite for Strength has pledged to fix,” the group said.

Elections are scheduled to conclude Sept. 18. SAG’s contract expired June 30, and no talks have been scheduled.

SAG hasn’t scheduled a strike authorization and probably won’t due to the difficulty of obtaining 75% approval among those voting. Still, the uncertainty over a SAG strike has brought major studio feature activity to a near-halt for now. TV production remains unaffected as SAG members work under the terms of the expired deal.

Unite for Strength’s slate includes Adam Arkin, Amy Brenneman, Doug Savant and Kate Walsh. It’s also endorsed independent candidates Morgan Fairchild and Susan Boyd.

Membership First has a slate of 33 Hollywood candidates in order to maintain its slim majority on the national board. Most prominent names include Keith Carradine, Joely Fisher, Lainie Kazan and JoBeth Willams.

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