SAG squabbles over contract tactics

Hollywood panel seeks vote by members

In a sign of the ongoing internal turmoil at the Screen Actors Guild, SAG’s Hollywood board is asking the national board to send out the congloms’ final offer to members — without a recommendation.

On a split vote, the Hollywood board recommended such a step Monday night, even though the national panel spurned sending the offer out two weeks ago.

SAG had no immediate comment about Monday’s vote, taken at a meeting at SAG headquarters in Hollywood. SAG’s feature-primetime master contract expired on June 30.

Negotiations between SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers collapsed on Feb. 19 over the issue of when SAG’s contract would expire, with the guild pushing for a two-year deal and the congloms insisting on a three-year term. SAG’s negotiating task force had agreed to accept the AMPTP’s new-media template but the companies have drawn a line in the sand over the expiration, asserting that companies need a full three years of labor peace.

SAG’s  national board rejected the AMPTP’s “last, best, final” offer on Feb. 21. The hardline Membership First faction — which lost its majority on the national board last fall — has asserted that the “last, best, final” offer should be sent out in its current form and then voted down by the members to force the congloms to improve the offer.

The ruling moderate coalition has insisted that SAG should not break precedent, noting that SAG members have never been sent a contract the board didn’t recommend ratifying. Monday’s action by the Hollywood board — with Membership First holding about 60% of the seats — specified that pro and con arguments would be sent out with the ratification ballots. 

Hollywood members represent about 60% of the 120,000 SAG members and their elected reps tend to take more assertive positions. The New York division, which tends to elect more pragmatic leaders, has about 25% of the members and the regional branches have the other 15%.

According to attendees at the meeting, Membership First reps also requested that interim national exec director David White call a national board meeting to discuss sending the contract out for a vote. White refused to set a specific meeting date and asserted that the SAG needs to focus on its commercial contract negotiations, which launched two weeks ago.

White also said that many members don’t want the current offer sent out for a vote.

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