With evidence of the economy’s collapse piling up almost daily, Hollywood is wondering how in the world SAG hopes to get what it wants.
Amid a ferocious spin war, the guild’s strategy seems fairly clear: Insist it deserves a better deal than the other unions; persuade members to give it a strike authorization and threaten to disrupt the Academy Awards. Though SAG hasn’t set a timeline, it could be on strike before the Feb. 22 Oscars — presumably adding urgency for moguls to hammer out a deal.
But executing SAG’s plan won’t be easy.
Both sides have repeated the same hardline positions so often that they have no room left to maneuver, according to labor expert Daniel Mitchell, a UCLA public policy professor.
“Now that mediation has failed, this is playing out sort of as a game of chicken,” Mitchell says. “What mediators are good at is allowing negotiators to re-formulate their positions without appearing to be doing so. The problem is that neither side trusts each other anymore.”
The majors have been hammering SAG ever since federal mediation cratered Nov. 22.
“Because of SAG’s failed negotiating strategy, our industry now faces the prospect of another destructive and unnecessary strike,” the CEOs said Dec. 1.
Cracks in SAG’s effort to present a united front have already appeared as Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Mike Farrell and former SAG prexy Richard Masur have gone public with concerns that SAG is going down the wrong road with its strike threat.
And Masur, who’s also a national board member, says the negotiating committee made a strategic blunder in mediation by including an increase in DVD residuals in its proposal.
“They have known, since April, that no deal could be made which includes DVD increases,” he notes. “Even the WGA removed their DVD proposal before they went on their 100-day strike, because they knew it was a non-starter. And neither the DGA or AFTRA had DVD proposals in their final packages.”
Masur also raises a key question for members: Are you willing to strike over new-media projects with budgets less than $15,000 per minute, or $300,000 per project — “work which has paid actors very little to date and shows no signs of being a substantial source of income in the foreseeable future”?