Bateman exits SAG’s national board

Actress expressed frustration over contract

Justine Bateman has resigned from the Screen Actors Guild’s national board of directors, blasting the moderates who control the board and repeating her characterization of AFTRA as a “scumbag” union.

In a letter made public Friday, Bateman also expressed frustration over SAG members not sharing her views and their recent 78% approval of the feature-primetime contract.

“They rarely expressed the correct anger at AFTRA low-balling contracts over the years that affected their ability to provide for themselves,” she said. “They then ignored, seemingly, ALL the news about the migration from Old Media to New Media and recently took from the AMPTP the worst deal I have ever seen. For nothing.”

Bateman and other opponents insisted during the anti-ratification campaign that the migration of programming to digital platforms required that actors receive sweeter terms than those contained in the two-year deal.

“SAG’s members themselves have now voted up a contract that will cause about 50% of the working members to leave the business, but now that you’re all ‘back to work’ you’re probably too busy to read this,” she said in the letter. “Congratulations.”

Bateman’s slot on the board will be filled by an appointed rep from the Hollywood Division board, then become one of the seats up for election in September. The departure of Bateman, one of the more high-profile board members allied with the more assertive Membership First faction, will make it more difficult for that group to regain control of the board from the moderate coalition.

Bateman said she initially run for the board three years ago in order to address three issues — the SAG web site, the poor agent-relations, and the “seeming absence” of jurisdictional lines between SAG and AFTRA. She said the web site has been improved but other issues had become worse.

Bateman asserted that agents have a conflict of interest by acting as production companies themselves. SAG lost oversight of most major agencies in 2002 when SAG members voted down a revamp of the franchise agreement that eased the ownership restrictions.

Bateman gained notice last year for her attack of AFTRA, calling it a “scumbag” union. AFTRA subsequently angrily split from SAG and negotiated its primetime deal separately. Most new pilots have signed with AFTRA since then; additionally, SAG patched up its relations with AFTRA and signed a non-disparagement agreement in order to jointly negotiate a commercials contract

“AFTRA has just basically, after years of trying to get SAG’s attention by lighting the newspapers on the porch on fire, have finally succeeded in partially burning the place down,” Bateman said in the Friday letter. “And all we dual-card members be damned. We should have bought that scumbag organization years ago and shut that duplicitous leadership up instead of submitting to this ‘non-disparagement agreement’ by which I am, happily, no longer bound.”

She also blasted the SAG board, which saw moderates gain control over the hardline Membership First faction last fall, for requiring that SAG president Alan Rosenberg no longer be allowed to be the official public voice of the union.

“What is this?” she asked. “Communist China or tumultuous Iran? I can’t be a part of a union leadership that strips it’s elected leadership of its voice. If we can’t speak up about injustices in union matters, how are we being effective at all in office? No, better to not be a part of it and to be able to speak freely against what I see as irresponsibility, fear, greed, and ego-driven decision-making.”

SAG First VP Anne-Marie Johnson told Daily Variety that Bateman was speaking for herself and not on behalf of Membership First.

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