Union's New York reps disapprove of vote

Leaders of SAG’s New York branch have split from the Hollywood leadership and called for the guild to stop its strike authorization vote.

In a statement issued Friday, the New York reps cited the nation’s worsening financial crisis for the move. The division leaders noted that while they had voted in October to support seeking a strike authorization if federal mediation failed,  conditions have changed since then.

“While issuing a strike authorization may have been a sensible strategy in October, we believe it is irresponsible to do so now, in the face of widespread layoffs, cutbacks and reduced programming,” the NY board said in a statement. “The hardest and most important decision any union member must make is whether or not to go on strike. Before we ask you to make that choice, we feel we must, as your elected representatives, make every move we can to get you a deal.”

The New York reps asked that all plans for a strike referendum cease; that SAG president Alan Rosenberg immediately call an emergency national board meeting;  that the national board appoint a new negotiating task force to replace the current negotiating committee at this emergency meeting; and that the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers be encouraged “in the strongest of terms” to return to the bargaining table.

“With a fresh team, the AMPTP will return to the table, and we can get a fair deal,” the NY reps said. “A deal that will not cost careers, homes, lives. We want our members to understand that while strikes are sometimes unavoidable, we will do everything in our power to avoid this one.”

SAG president Alan Rosenberg responded by denouncing the move while agreeing to hold an emergency national board meeting at a yet to be announced date.

“I am shocked and troubled that some members of our New York Board have issued a statement to the press regarding our October 2008 national board directive to send a strike authorization referendum to SAG members. Oddly, a portion of the group that now holds the majority of votes on our national board, and who voted as part of the 97% majority to send this referendum to members, has now reconsidered.”

On Friday, the AMPTP sent a letter to elected officials that excoriated SAG leaders for refusing to accept the AMPTP’s final offer, which contains similar terms to those in Hollywood labor agreements concluded this year by the WGA, DGA, IATSE, casting directors and AFTRA.  

Guild leaders have insisted that the needs of actors — particularly in new media — have not been adequately addressed in the AMPTP’s final offer, issued June 30 as SAG’s contract expired.

SAG plans to send out the strike authorization vote to its due current members — estimated at 110,000 — on Jan. 2 with results announced Jan. 23. At least 75% of those voting must affirm the authorization for SAG’s national board to call a strike.

SAG leaders have insisted that the authorization vote won’t necessarily lead to a strike and have  asserted a “yes” vote is designed to force the AMPTP back to the bargaining table. The AMPTP’s declared repeatedly that it won’t revise the terms of its offer.

A federal mediator brought negotiators together last month to try to relaunch bargaining, but those talks collapsed after two days on Nov. 22 amid a blizzard of accusations from both sides.

SAG held its first town hall meeting last Monday in Hollywood, with 400 members attending. It’s scheduled two more such gatherings, one in New York on Monday at the Westin Times Square and another Wednesday at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more