Rosenberg predicts downturn for deal

As SAG prepares to mail out its contract ratification ballots this week, guild president Alan Rosenberg is predicting that members will spurn the hard-fought feature-primetime deal.

“I think there’s a good chance that of members voting this down,” he said Sunday at a Griffith Park picnic-rally to oppose the deal. “It’s a terrible deal that hasn’t changed since we started negotiating, especially in the new media provisions. I’m proud to be here today among members who really know what’s going on.”

Rosenberg’s comments came as SAG began its pro-ratification campaign to persuade members to vote up the pact. That push kicked off Sunday with an “I’m Voting Yes” online video posted on the SAG.org web site with endorsements by 34 members including Ed Begley Jr., New York SAG president Sam Freed and board members Amy Brenneman, Adam Arkin and Kate Walsh.

The video notes SAG members have lost an estimated $85 million in pay increases by working without a contract since the June 30 expiration. It also emphasizes that the new deal will increase feature production – which has been mired in uncertainty for the past year – along with providing new media jurisdiction.

The video stresses that SAG’s lack of a deal has contributed to over 90% of primetime pilots have signed with AFTRA. “We’ve got to have a contract that gives us what we need now and in the future,” Walsh said in the video.

SAG’s national board approved the two-year tentative deal, which mostly mirrors the latest WGA, DGA and AFTRA contracts, a month ago with only 53% of the board supporting the agreement. Ballots go out Tuesday to about 120,000 members with a June 9 return date.

Rosenberg said he believes the relatively low endorsement of AFTRA’s primetime deal last summer – with a 62% approval, following a vociferous negative campaign by SAG – offers an indication that SAG members are likely to turn down the guild’s deal. He said the minority report included in the ballot plus two upcoming town hall meetings heighten the chances of a defeat.

Opponents have contended that voting the deal down would force the congloms to offer SAG better terms, though the congloms have insisted for the past year that they will not sweeten the deal.

A shift last fall in control of the national board to a moderate coalition from the hardline Membership First faction led to the ouster of national exec director Doug Allen in January over his strident opposition to the offer on the table from the majors. Allen’s replacements — interim national exec director David White and chief negotiator John McGuire — were able to come to negotiate an expiration of June 30, 2011, which keeps SAG’s pact in synch with those of the WGA, DGA and AFTRA.

Allen also attended Sunday’s event at Griffith Park, which drew about 70 people, but was mum on making any prediction as to the outcome of the ratification vote. He also said he’s “exploring” his options about another job.

“I’m just here to see my friends,” he said. “I’m not the story.”

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