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SAG warned on attacks

Guild warned not to slam AFTRA

The Screen Actors Guild’s top attorney has warned the guild’s elected leaders — again — that they’re not allowed to bash the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

SAG general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland issued the admonition Sunday during the early portion of the annual meeting of the Hollywood division, attended by about 200 members. SAG and AFTRA had no comment about Crabtree-Ireland’s warning.

The two performers unions agreed last fall to a deal brokered by the AFL-CIO that included “nondisparagement” language along with fines and other discipline for violators, in order to end the bickering that had pervaded their relations for years.

For its part, AFTRA’s widely believed to have complained to the AFL-CIO this year about alleged violations of the pact. The labor federation has refused repeated requests to comment.

SAG’s two ruling factions have hammered each other repeatedly over the relationship with AFTRA. The hardline Membership First faction has vigorously opposed any move toward a merger, while the moderate Unite for Strength group has asserted that SAG needs to explore that combination.

Crabtree-Ireland’s warning marks the fourth time this year that top SAG staffers have admonished elected leaders about AFTRA-bashing and its consequences.

“There is a strict prohibition on all disparaging comments about the other union which are made or sent to members, the media or the public,” Crabtree-Ireland told SAG’s elected leaders in January. “Your failure to do so may result in substantial liability to your union and, as a result, anyone covered by this agreement may be subject to removal from office, disciplinary and/or legal action for violating these obligations.”

SAG interim national exec director David White issued a similar warning in March, asserting that several individuals had made public statements that “raise concerns with respect to prohibited disparagement of AFTRA.”

And Crabtree-Ireland told the Hollywood board last month that it was in potential violation of the agreement by establishing a task force to explore “acquisition” of AFTRA actors by SAG.

SAG agreed last fall to patch up its relationship with AFTRA and conduct joint negotiations for the commercials contract, seven months after AFTRA angrily split with its rival on primetime contract talks.

Most of those attending Sunday’s meeting remain hostile toward AFTRA, complaining that it’s too accommodating to producers. The attendees approved an advisory motion by Membership First member Scott Wilson to rescind the nondisparagement agreement — a largely symbolic gesture since the moderates control the national board.

Wilson, who resigned from SAG committees earlier this year partly to avoid being subject to the nondisparagement agreement, told Daily Variety that the pact prevents board members from examining SAG’s relationship with AFTRA.

“How can the board perform its fiduciary responsibilities with this agreement in place?” he asked.

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