Actor urges Guild to vote down AFTRA deal

SAG and AFTRA have made competing last-minute appeals to members over AFTRA’s primetime deal, with ballots due back Tuesday.

SAG’s sent out a fervent email appeal from Sean Penn urging guild members to vote down the deal while an unofficial group of AFTRA supporters have added Kelly Preston and John Travolta to its list of over 700 endorsers on the http://www.aftrayes.com site. 

“AFTRA’s deal not only falls short of fair compensation and protection for actors but just as significantly reflects corporate appeasement that will have an irreversible negative effect on the integrity of the show and the films we perform in,” Penn wrote in a message that members began receiving Thursday. “They’re trying to buy us out, bully us down and in so doing, they will destroy the very purpose of our work.”

SAG’s been attempting to persuade its 44,000 members who also belong with AFTRA to vote down the deal. It began making automated phone calls with a 30-second message from Penn this week — the third such SAG robo-call in the past month following similar messages from Sandra Oh and Ed Asner.

For its part, AFTRA’s been enthusiastically backing the deal — which mirrors the terms of the DGA and WGA pacts signed earlier this year — and blasting back at SAG in its messages to its 70,000 members.

“You’ve heard from so many of us, again and again, about the value and importance of AFTRA’s deal, urging you to vote YES,” AFTRA said in its most recent missive. “You’ve also heard from SAG Hollywood, again and again, about what a bad deal this is.  This campaign by SAG is absolutely without precedent in the history of entertainment, likely within labor itself.  The cost is exorbitant.  Flyers, postcards, trade ads, robo calls…the price mounts every day.”

In the meantime, Hollywood’s on hold over a potential actors strike with SAG and the major studios expected to remain in a stalemate until the AFTRA ratification results are announced — probably on Tuesday. The two sides met for four hours Wednesday in a session set up for SAG to ask questions about the congloms’ final offer — which matches AFTRA’s deal — with SAG indicating it will contact the congloms on Monday to set up a meeting to officially respond to the final offer.

SAG’s feature-primetime contract expired last Tuesday. SAG hasn’t taken any steps toward a strike authorization, and the companies haven’t yet implemented a lockout of actors.

SAG insiders have maintained that if the AFTRA vote passes by a relatively small margin, it will strengthen SAG’s hand in seeking a better deal than AFTRA’s. But observors believe SAG will only gain leverage if it defeats the AFTRA deal.

 It’s unclear what will happen if the AFTRA deal’s voted down. SAG’s insisted that if that happens, it means SAG and AFTRA would then negotiate jointly — a scenario that AFTRA’s derided due to its lack of trust of the guild’s leadership. Meanwhile, AFTRA’s insisted a “no” vote is equivalent to a strike authorization.

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