Though the endless saga over SAG’s internal battles has caused Hollywood’s eyes to glaze over, the guild may be about to turn a corner toward moderation.
The current ratification campaign battle — with hardliners urging defeat and self-styled pragmatists seeking approval — will conclude June 9. Given the opposition to a strike authorization last winter, the shift toward a more moderate board last fall and SAG’s failure to stop the AFTRA members (who tend to support a more moderate approach) from approving the same deal last year, it appears SAG member sentiment may be shifting away from confrontation and attack.
Additionally, the tough economic times are likely to favor the “yes” side in the vote — despite the opponents’ fervent warnings that residuals will vanish under the new deal as programming shifts to digital platforms.
If the contract is voted up June 9, that would give the moderates momentum heading into another election, with merger with AFTRA being a major campaign issue. Should the moderates find a high-profile presidential candidate and again assemble more recognizable names on their slate — as they did last fall with Amy Brenneman, Adam Arkin and Kate Walsh — a merger with AFTRA might actually start moving forward.
“Merger is going to be a major part of our campaign,” admits Ned Vaughn, a key leader of the Unite for Strength faction.
Additionally, ballot box victories would likely mean that David White, who replaced Doug Allen as SAG’s top exec in January after the moderates fired Allen, would receive a gig without the interim title.
But history also shows that SAG members are truly unpredictable. When the moderates were last in power, they failed to persuade members in 2002 to agree to a revamp of the master franchise agreement for agents — thus losing oversight of the major agencies — and voted down the long-sought AFTRA merger in 2003. That led to the hardline Membership First faction gaining control in 2005, with Alan Rosenberg as president.
Rosenberg, who won re-election narrowly over the even more hardline Seymour Cassel in 2007, hasn’t yet indicated if he’ll seek a third term.