Rosenberg claims initiative would 'weaken us'

With high-pressure contract negotiations looming, SAG president Alan Rosenberg has thrown cold water on the idea of any kind of limit on guild member voting.

The “qualified voting” issue is expected to be on the agenda of SAG’s April 12 national board meeting, but Rosenberg’s already indicated he’s certain the measure won’t be approved.

More than 1,400 actors have signed a petition asking that SAG’s board institute a requirement that would limit those able to vote on the contract to those who — over the past six years — have performed an average of five days principal work or 15 days background work per year; or had average residual earnings per year equivalent to five principal days at scale; or is fully vested in the SAG Producers Pension Plan.

Such a move would eliminate a large percentage of the 120,000 SAG members now eligible to vote on the contract and on a strike authorization, if SAG issues such a request. Backers of the petition — including Amy Brenneman, Sally Field and Charlie Sheen — note that less than 20% of SAG members earn at least $7,500 annually.

But Rosenberg criticized backers of the proposal for the timing of the initiative with formal negotiations starting April 15. “To make this such a public issue at this time is meant to do nothing but weaken us,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

Ned Vaughn, who has led the drive, disputed that assessment.

“To suggest that so many old friends and colleagues of his — including movie stars, representatives of every major show on TV, and sitting SAG national board members — would raise this issue out of anything other than a sincere desire to strengthen our guild is an affront,” he said. “And the idea that those with the most at stake in upcoming contract negotiations would seek to weaken the guild right now is preposterous. Alan is wrong not only about our motives, but also about the effect that adopting our proposal would have — which would be to strengthen the guild.”

Vaughn noted that AFTRA’s recent decision to ditch joint negotiations weakens SAG’s position and contended that qualified voting is an opportunity to increase SAG’s leverage at the bargaining table.

The issue of “qualified voting” last emerged six years ago after SAG’s members voted down a revamp of its master franchise agreement for agents, leading to complaints by backers that nonworking actors may have been the key component in the no vote. A proposal was then crafted as a way of restarting negotiations with agents, but the measure went nowwhere after several members characterized such a move as undemocratic and elitist.

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