Guild's exec director addresses strike turmoil

With pressure mounting to call off SAG’s strike authorization, the guild’s top exec has asserted he’s hoping a strike won’t occur but that if it does, it won’t shut down the industry.

In a message sent Tuesday to SAG’s 120,000 members, national exec director Doug Allen reiterated his oft-stated position that approval of the authorization won’t guarantee a strike on primetime and features. That declaration’s been widely disputed inside and outside SAG with the contention that SAG’s leadership won’t compromise at the bargaining table should the authorization receive the required 75% affirmation from those voting.

“If the SAG National Board is authorized to call a strike, we all hope a strike will not be necessary,” Allen said. “But, if the National Board decides to call one, it will not ‘shut down’ the industry. Why not? Because the national board’s decision would have no effect on work done under the Guild’s other contracts.”

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers blasted back at Allen.

“Today’s SAG statement suggesting that a SAG strike would not have a devastating impact on our industry, in the midst of the greatest economic turmoil since the Great Depression, simply defies reality,” the AMPTP said. “The 100-day writers strike — which resulted in the writers receiving the same terms that the DGA achieved without a strike — cost our economy $2.5 billion. A SAG strike would cost the working families who depend on our industry even more — at a time when everyone is already under extreme pressure by the unprecedented national economic crisis.”

Allen’s missive comes a week after he postponed the authorization vote until mid-January at the earliest. He and SAG president Alan Rosenberg decided that strike ballots won’t go out until after an emergency national board meeting on Jan. 12-13 in Hollywood in order to persuade the badly fractured panel to present a united front before strike authorization ballots go out.

Allen’s message also said that in event of a primetime-feature strike, work done under other SAG contracts would continue to be governed by those contracts along with the work on feature projects that have received SAG waivers — although many of the latter have already been shot.

“That means jobs in commercials, basic cable, video games and industrials would continue during a TV/Theatrical strike,” he said. “Also, jobs would continue on more than 800 independent movie projects by producers not associated with AMPTP companies, and on more than 800 independent new media projects under SAG’s new media agreement.”

Allen also said actors on any shows signed to contracts under the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists before the effective date of a SAG strike would be required by their personal contract and AFTRA’s primetime master contract to report to work on any AFTRA-covered projects.

SAG covers the lion’s share of primetime but AFTRA has been making significant inroads by signing pilots to primetime shows shot digitally — an area in which the two unions share jurisdiction — as studios opt to avoid being hit by a strike even though AFTRA’s base rates are higher under the deal it ratified in July.

SAG said the message is the first of several that will be sent to members in response to questions from its three town hall meetings. It also said that nearly 3,000 members have signed a “solidarity” statement backing a yes vote on the authorization.

The No SAG strike web site has attracted over 1,750 backers as of Tuesday. The opponents have organized around a Dec. 2 letter by Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, which asserted that a strike would be counter-productive amid the economic crisis and that SAG should accept a deal equivalent to those signed by the WGA, DGA, AFTRA and IATSE and work with the other unions for a better deal in three years.

“We don’t think that an authorization can be looked at as merely a bargaining tool,” the letter also said. “It must be looked at as what it is- agreement to strike if negotiations fail. We support our union and we support the issues we’re fighting for, but we do not believe in all good conscience that now is the time to be putting people out of work.”

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