The yearlong saga surrounding SAG’s vitriolic contract ratification battle comes to an end this evening — with promises of more bitterness in the coming months as campaigning for SAG’s fall elections ramps up.
Results of the balloting will be announced around 6 p.m. The probable voting rate among the 110,000 eligible members is 30%.
Though the deal is expected to pass, thesps have confounded expectations in the past by voting down measures backed by the national board.
The two-year pact, covering features and primetime, was endorsed April 19 by 53% of the national board. A coalition of moderates passed it over the vociferous objections of SAG president Alan Rosenberg and his hardline allies in Membership First. Both sides have already been laying the groundwork to increase their power in the upcoming election, with results to be announced Sept. 24.
For example, William Petersen and Melissa Leo will host a Membership First fund-raiser for the upcoming campaign on Wednesday evening at a Santa Monica residence.
Suggested contribution is $50, though the invite also notes, “No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.”
Petersen and Leo both urged members to vote against ratifying the feature-primetime deal. Leo appeared in a video with board member Scott Bakula and asserted that actors should “come together” on a no vote in the same manner that U.S. voters backed President Obama last fall.
SAG’s master contract expired nearly a year ago; Rosenberg and since-ousted national exec director Doug Allen insisted that the guild had to achieve sweeter terms than the DGA, WGA and AFTRA. Membership First then lost control of the board in the fall when the Unite for Strength faction, with Amy Brenneman and Adam Arkin leading the way, won six Hollywood seats and allied with New York and regional reps.
Asked what the tenor of the upcoming campaign will be, New York president Sam Freed said, “If it were up to me, the elections would offer a forum where members could get educated about the issues and make informed decisions through their votes about how they want the guild to move forward into the future. That’s what I will strive to do. But the fact is I don’t get to set the tone.”
Neither side has yet disclosed who will lead its ticket as a possible successor to Rosenberg — who still hasn’t indicated whether he’ll seek a third two-year term. Speculation’s centered on James Cromwell, a former SAG secretary-treasurer affiliated with UFS, for the moderates, while Membership First possibilities include First VP Anne-Marie Johnson, board member Seymour Cassel and Martin Sheen, who made a video opposing the deal.
Johnson told Daily Variety on Monday that no decision has been made as to who will run for president.
Nominating petitions for the Hollywood branch will be available Monday. The campaign’s expected to turn on two major issues: how each side has conducted itself over the past year and a possible merger with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
The moderates will contend that SAG’s lack of a new contract and its perceived intransigence has led to networks shifting pilots to AFTRA. They’ll also argue that the lack of a deal has deprived nonstar actors of an estimated $85 million in pay raises for the past year.
Membership First will continue to characterize the deal as the “worst ever” for its perceived shortfalls in new-media compensation and jurisdiction. And it will blame the moderates for firing Allen in January and refusing to back a strike authorization vote last winter, thus de-leveraging SAG at the bargaining table.