Divided SAG stands

Opposing guild factions continue debate

Halfway through a heated battle over contract ratification voting, Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg remains convinced that the deal’s headed for a defeat.

“I don’t know for sure what’s going to happen, but I do know that the reaction I’ve gotten in calls and emails has been very supportive,” Rosenberg told Daily Variety on Thursday. “Members don’t like this deal.”

However, deal proponents — including national board member Adam Arkin and interim national exec director David White — have predicted that the measure will pass easily. They’ve contended that members are anxious for a new deal after working for nearly a year under terms of the expired agreement.

SAG mailed out 110,000 contract ratification ballots on May 19 with a June 9 return date. The guild has held a dozen member information meetings over the past week.

Opposition to the deal has been centered in Hollywood while members in New York and the regional branches have supported the two-year pact. At a member-only meeting last week at the Hollywood Renaissance, about 70% of Hollywood members indicated they would oppose the deal.

Rosenberg on Thursday noted that members Rob Schneider, Ed Harris and William Petersen have come out against the deal this week, joining Martin Sheen, Elliott Gould and John Heard. “I admire people’s willingness to say that publicly because they are doing so at the risk of their careers,” he added.

SAG’s pro-ratification campaign to persuade members to vote up the pact has featured messages to the members stressing that the new deal will increase feature production and provide new-media jurisdiction. They’ve also underlined the problems created by SAG’s lack of a deal for the past year, which has contributed to more than 90% of primetime pilots signing with AFTRA.

SAG’s national board approved the two-year tentative deal, which mostly mirrors the latest WGA, DGA and AFTRA contracts, on April 19 with only 53% of the board supporting the agreement.

Opponents have contended that voting the deal down would force the congloms to offer SAG better terms, though the congloms have insisted for the past year that they will not sweeten the deal.

They’ve also insisted SAG can’t accept the new-media terms while such sites as Hulu gain popularity. Proponents of the deal have contended that the opponents are exaggerating how much money’s being made through video streaming, noting in a recent online video that Hulu’s revenues totaled $70 million last year.

“That’s less than ‘The Dark Knight’ made on its first day,” said Ned Vaughn, a leader of the moderate coalition that controls SAG’s national board.

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