Despite last week’s shift in control of the board, the SAG contract stalemate with the the majors shows no signs of any quick resolution — and may drag on for the rest of the year.
SAG’s leaders have continued to insist they won’t budge from their stance that the guild must receive a sweeter deal than the DGA, WGA and AFTRA. And the newly empowered dissidents have stayed silent on whether they’ll buck the holdout strategy.
At a town hall meeting Tuesday night, national exec director Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg showed no softening of key positions on the need for jurisdiction and residuals in new media along with retaining force majeure protections. An estimated 150 members attended the event at the WGA Theater – far less than the crowds of more than 500 at previous town hall meetings.
Those attending expressed strong support for holding out and several asserted SAG should seek a strike authorization from its members, which would require 75% endorsement to go into effect. Allen also insisted at the meeting that he continues to hold back-channel negotiations with the congloms – an assertion that’s been denied repeatedly by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.
“Please keep doing what you’re doing,” one member said during the Q&A. Allen indicated at one point that taking a strike authorization vote remains an option.
For their part, the congloms appear resigned to the ongoing lack of resolution with the AMPTP insisting it won’t revise the final offer – made June 30, a few hours before the SAG contract expired. They appear to be calculating that SAG’s will eventually lose their taste for holding out due to the ongoing loss of SAG jurisdiction in primetime TV to AFTRA (Daily Variety, Sept. 10); and the ongoing loss to members, estimated now at $20 million, from gains that would have been achieved by accepting the final offer.
For now, SAG’s ramping up its efforts on explaining how it’s conducing negotiations. Though it had no comment, guild reps have been reaching out recently to series regulars to explain the force majeure issue, on which SAG’s seeking millions of dollars in payments allegedly due to members who went on forced hiatus during the WGA strike.
“We are conducting a significant member outreach effort over the next few weeks,” Allen said. “We are meeting with SAG members in Town Halls across the country — in person and by videoconference — to bring them up to date on the status of our negotiations and to hear their questions and suggestions.”
The AMPTP’s hinted it may reduce the value of the final offer due to the souring economy. “For the time being our June 30th final offer remains on the table, in spite of the worst American economic crisis since the Great Depression,” it said Wednesday.
Last week’s voting pushed the Membership First faction out of power after a three-run run. During the campaign, the Unite For Strength slate hammered Membership First for bungling the negotiations by alienating AFTRA but the group hasn’t differed publicly over holding out for a better deal from the AMPTP.
The anti-Membership First coalition – comprised of Unite For Strength plus reps in New York and the regional branches — may make such a move at the next national board meeting on Oct. 18. But doing so could be difficult with a razor-thin one-vote majority on a 71-member board.
New York SAG president Sam Freed indicated that SAG’s stance could change at the board meeting next month.
“The newly elected have yet to attend a board meeting and assert any change by their votes,” Freed said. “The presentations at the (town hall) meeting have nothing to do with what the new board will do.”
Newly elected Unite For Strength board member Adam Arkin and faction spokesman Ned Vaughn attended the Tuesday night town hall but didn’t speak at the event. Besides Allen and Rosenberg, negotiating committee chief David Jolliffe, board member Kent McCord and contracts executive Ray Rodriguez spoke from the dais Tuesday.
The congloms had not addressed the SAG stalemate since last week, when the guild announced that 87% of members participating in a postcard poll had endorsed the holdout strategy. At that point, the AMPTP said the polling was meaningless since SAG had presented the contract issues unfairly.
For their part, execs at the congloms are now resigned to the SAG stand-off not being resolved soon. On the TV side, production’s stayed active throughout the summer and into the fall; studios have started making good on their pledge to move on with greenlighting feature pics.
Pics which have been shooting recently include Warner Bros.’ “Gran Torino,” U’s “Funny People,” Sony’s “2012,”Sony’s “Angels & Demons,” Fox’s “Night at the Museum II: Escape From the Smithsonian,” Paramount/DreamWorks’ “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and Disney’s Prince of Persia.” Other pics moving into production soon include MGM’s “Cabin in the Woods,” Warner Bros.’ “Hangover,” directed by Todd Phillips; Fox’s “The Tooth Fairy,” starring Dwayne Johnson and Warner’s “Cats and Dogs 2.”