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Internal SAG documents show that 23% of SAG members did not work during 1996-2000 and that 36% have worked less than five days in those five years.

The confidential statistics, prepared by SAG’s longtime outside counsel Geffner & Bush, also show that only three branches — Hollywood, Minneapolis and New York — saw over 40% of members log at least 30 days work during the 1996-2000 period. At many regional offices, such as those in Honolulu, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland and Washington, D.C., less than 25% of the members topped the 30-day mark.

Hollywood branch stats showed 26,331 of 63,745 members (41.3%) worked at least 30 days in 1996-2000, while another 2,217 (3.5%) had qualified for 10 years of pension and health benefits and another 2,011 (3.2%) had worked 10 or more days in 2000. Stats for all 117,135 SAG members showed 38.7% had worked 30 days, while another 3.4% qualified for 10 years of P&H and another 2.9% had worked 10 days in 2000.

Diverse membership

The “working in the trade” report — prepped at the behest of SAG staff — underscores the unique nature of SAG’s membership, which ranges from superstars with $25 million paychecks to thousands of occasional thesps who make a living in other lines of work but continue paying dues. Each SAG member pays annual dues of $100, plus 1.85% of earnings under SAG contracts up through $200,000, and 0.5% on earnings from $200,001 through $500,000.

The document was distributed to national board members last month in order to revisit an issue that has prompted significant resistance among SAG’s elected officers in recent years: Should national officers (president, secretary-treasurer, board members, alternates) be working actors who have had a substantial career?

Report was presented around the same time that SAG’s membership voted down a revamp of the master franchise agreement despite an aggressive campaign by SAG staff. The “no” vote has left Hollywood in a state of uncertainty about agent rules and prompted frustration among agents over the lack of a “working in the trade” requirement for SAG board members and voters.

Report was taken off the agenda and never discussed at the April 20-21 national board meeting due to the need to address the “no” vote on the master franchise agreement, which would have eased agency ownership restrictions. With that agent issue and enforcement of Global Rule One dominating SAG’s politics, it’s uncertain when the “working in trade” issue will be addressed.

Work requirement for board?

The panel had discussed a “working in trade” requirement for board members in January, during final approval of its plan to cut the board from 107 to 62 seats, but the only new requirement included was that a member be current on dues payments.

SAG’s board will be reduced in this fall’s elections, more than two years after consultants suggested that the panel be chopped to 40 in order to save up to $800,000 in annual operating costs, prompting over a year of vituperative opposition from reps in the regional branches and New York. The election will also reconfigure the board to give Hollywood 54% of the seats, up from its current 46%, in order to accurately represent the membership.

Geffner & Bush’s report suggested three possible approaches, either alone or in combination — 30 days worked in five years; five days worked in the previous year; and 10 years of pension and health contributions. But the report did not propose any restrictions on voting by members or other benefits of membership.

It said that other issues to consider would be whether there would be enough qualified candidates for board elections and whether to disqualify nonworking members who have experience and skills.

Other guilds’ rules

Members of the Directors Guild of America — which currently has 12,400 members — voted four years ago to tighten eligibility requirements for serving on DGA’s national board: Candidates must have worked 30 days under a DGA contract in the seven years before an election.

The Writers Guild of America West, which has 8,500 members, requires a candidate to be an active member, a status that can be maintained with employment within a seven-year period.