SAG calls meetings to size up support

Guild to hold bicoastal town meetings

The Screen Actors Guild, with its upcoming strike authorization vote in the spotlight, will take the town’s temperature via a pair of meetings to update members, publicists and managers.

SAG’s leaders will hold a town hall meeting tonight at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood about the vote, expected to be sent to members around Christmas (Daily Variety, Dec. 4). Guild toppers also will meet Wednesday in a bicoastal gathering at SAG headquarters in Hollywood and New York with personal publicists and managers.

The confabs should give the guild guidance as to the support among its 120,000 members for its current strategy. SAG’s insisted that voting “yes” for the authorization doesn’t mean a strike, while the congloms have derided that idea and asserted that SAG will strike if it achieves the required 75% support among those voting.

Other than Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman voicing their opposition last week, high-profile SAG members have stayed silent so far about the merits of the authorization vote. Some star publicists have said privately that their clients are opposed to a strike because of the souring economic picture.

In a message sent to members Friday, SAG said the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers had failed to address the needs of actors at the bargaining table despite the efforts of the negotiating team and the intervention of a federal mediator.

“A strike authorization from SAG members will show the AMPTP that the unique needs of actors cannot be addressed by a pattern of bargaining,” SAG said. “Actors’ needs must be addressed for a deal to be made.”

SAG’s expected to announce at the meeting its specific timeline for sending out the ballots to the 120,000 members, with the date for return probably sometime in late January. SAG’s 71-member national board has final say over whether to call a strike.

SAG national exec director Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg issued the invitation to the publicists and managers Friday without any rhetoric.

“We have received numerous inquires about the status of negotiations, and we’d like to have the opportunity to discuss the situation together,” the duo said. “Please join us at this important meeting.”

The latter meeting may provide the town with some guidance as to whether SAG plans to disrupt the Feb. 22 Academy Awards.

In response to SAG announcing the meetings, the AMPTP noted it recently published the entire final offer to SAG at its website, AMPTP.org.

The group added, “We want every SAG member to review it closely and then make an independent judgment about whether it makes sense to strike over an offer that includes meaningful increases in wages and health and pension benefits, along with numerous first-ever new media rights. We welcome a vigorous public debate, and we hope as many people as possible will participate fully.”

For its part, SAG posted a new message from Rosenberg over the weekend on its website. Rosenberg focused on new-media language on residuals and jurisdiction that’s in six other union contracts signed this year by the AMPTP, asserting that the growing revenues from that sector makes it impossible for SAG to accept the same terms.

“As things move to the new-media sector, what happens to our ability to make a living?” Rosenberg added.

SAG and the majors have been in a stalemate most of the year over hammering out a new master contract to replace the deal that expired June 30. The AMPTP has declared repeatedly that it won’t sweeten its final offer, particularly amid the current economic crisis.

(Michael Fleming contributed to this report.)

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