New Hollywood labor disputes, new sources, eh? Here’s a big tidbit we’ve received about SAG’s pre-game, pre-showdown state of affairs. Note the observation about yet another de facto strike happening as we speak:
“Last week’s A-lister meeting with Alan Rosenberg, Doug Allen and SAG board members was at times incredibly contentious, but some good things did finally emerge from the meeting.
First, as stated in their ad, the A-listers want talks to begin NOW. After Alan Rosenberg and Doug Allen repeatedly reassured them that informal talks with the CEOs have been ongoing in advance of formal negotiations, invited A-listers to attend the open Wages & Working Conditions meetings where membership can talk about the issues they want addressed in this contract, and even recited their CEO meeting schedule for the next two weeks – only then did the A-listers begin to believe them. The A-listers did, however, say that they were going to check with the CEOs they knew well to make sure these meetings were taking place.
The A-listers also talked about the ‘de facto’ strike that is happening right now, as films aren’t getting completion bonds issued because the companies that issue the bonds fear a strike and a payout on those bonds. This is an absolute fact. Completion bonds are not being issued, and production is being delayed. Which is its own kind of corporate pressure. But Rosenberg and Allen reiterated that they don’t want a strike. What they want is a good deal for SAG.
They agreed that the DGA & WGA deals give templates on certain issues, but said there are many issues SAG membership face that have nothing to do with DGA or WGA issues, and those need to be addressed. Also, the timing of the announcement of the beginning of formal talks is probably the best piece of leverage SAG has, and the beginning of talks won’t cause companies to start issuing completion bonds – only an accepted contract will do that.
The A-listers talked about how SAG was the most powerful union of all and could negotiate from that position of power, beginning now. But Rosenberg and Allen also talked about how they could not take the strike option off the table, since SAG is negotiating from a weakened position, coming after the long WGA strike and the DGA and WGA deals.
Also, SAG is further weakened by the current internal strife over AFTRA and ‘earnings threshold’. A spurious argument was made by one of the A-listers that the dues paying SAG members who still make nothing in the industry, all have day jobs and wouldn’t be hurt by a strike. They, the A-lister contended, would be more willing to vote for a strike, but this was immediately shot down. That argument was countered with the fact that they are the members who LEAST want a strike, since there’d be NO chance for them to get jobs in the industry while it was happening. Also, the percentage of members who actually vote is steady at about 35%, so those non-earners in fact rarely vote.
SAG leadership also said that this very public posture the A-listers have taken gives the real perception of a rift in the union, which weakens bargaining power.
There were only two possible outcomes of the ad.
1) that the leadership of the guild acquiesced entirely to the A-listers, thereby signaling to the CEOs that all they had to do was get in the A-listers ears and leadership would do whatever they asked or
2) that leadership would do what it did, and ask the A-listers to bring their grievances directly to the leadership, thereby strengthening the guild as a whole.
All of this begs a few questions. First of all, last year Alan Rosenberg, with a strike authorization vote in his pocket, quietly and efficiently negotiated a good new basic cable deal for SAG with none other than the “Dark Lord” himself, Nick Counter, with little fuss or fanfare.
So who is telling all these A-listers that Rosenberg is strike happy and that he wants to cement his place in SAG history by calling a strike?
What makes a SAG president eternally famous is negotiating a great deal, and that is what Rosenberg and Allen intend to do.
Furthermore, leadership can’t call a strike – only membership can.
So who gains by painting Rosenberg as ‘strike happy’?
Whether true or not, the perception around town is that the CEO’s who call these A-listers their friends have been telling the A-listers that Rosenberg is a loose cannon who needs to be reined in.
If that perception is true, and the CEO’s have the A-listers ‘ears’, then in a way, the A-listers just got ‘played’, by going public with their position before even talking with their leadership, and advertising a very public split between them and their union.
The upshot of all of this, though, has ultimately been positive. There is now an open channel between leadership and the A-listers, and discussion between them has been ongoing since the meeting.
We can all hope that this continues.”