Amy Aquino and Arye Gross, Mike Farrell and Mike Hodges, Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito, have all written letters in recent days opposing SAG’s strike authorization vote and urging the board not to hold it and actors to vote against it.
From Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman sent to SAG President Alan Rosenberg:
December 2, 2008
We feel very strongly that SAG members should not vote to authorize a strike at this time.
We don’t think that an authorization can be looked at as merely a bargaining tool. It must be looked at as what it is – agreement to strike if negotiations fail.
We support our union and we support the issues we’re fighting for, but we do not believe in all good conscience that now is the time to be putting people out of work.
None of our friends in the other unions are truly happy with the deals they made in their negotiations. Three years from now all the union contracts will be up again at roughly the same time. At that point if we plan and work together with our sister unions we will have incredible leverage.
As hard as it may be to wait those three years under an imperfect agreement, we believe this is what we must do.
We think that a public statement should be made by SAG recognizing that although this is not a deal we want, it is simply not a time when our union wants to have any part in creating more economic hardship while so many people are already suffering.
Let’s take the high road. Let’s unite with our brothers and sisters in the entertainment community and prepare for the future, three years down the line. Then, together, let’s make a great deal.
Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito
Sent to Unite For Strength members by Amy Aquino and Arye Gross:
Dear UFS Supporter,
Unite for Strength is a broad coalition of professional performers determined to unite SAG and AFTRA to gain the leverage we need to get the contracts we deserve. Your support of this growing movement helped us elect five candidates to SAG’s National Board in September. Not surprisingly, we’re now receiving many inquiries regarding SAG’s recent call for a strike authorization vote, and want to help clarify what has happened so far.
When the National Board held its first post-election meeting in October, SAG’s negotiating committee asked for an immediate strike authorization referendum. Because of Unite for Strength’s newly won board seats, there were enough votes in the room to prevent that from happening. The Board instead called for federal mediation (a move SAG leadership had rejected before the election) to try to jumpstart the stalled negotiations. On November 20th, the Guild and producers (the AMPTP) went back to the table for the first time in over four months – but after just two days, the mediator declared it was pointless to continue. SAG’s negotiating committee – in which Unite for Strength had no vote – concluded in a split vote that mediation had failed, which automatically triggered the strike authorization referendum.
In these historically difficult economic times, every reasonable possibility for making a deal must be explored before considering a job action, and based on the media reports we’ve seen, we’re concerned this wasn’t accomplished. Soon all SAG members will need to let the leadership know how they feel, through their strike authorization votes. The decision to authorize a strike is one of the most important choices any member can make. It should be made after carefully weighing all the issues and the potential consequences. In the coming weeks, Unite for Strength will work to make sure that all our fellow members understand how important it is to cast a fully and accurately informed vote.
Amy Aquino and Arye Gross
Sent from Mike Hodge to SAG members (contains Mike Farrell statement):
Hello fellow SAG members.
As you have probably heard we are about to be inundated with an Educational Campaign from the Executive Director and National President of the Screen Actor’s Guild. It will tell you that we must vote up a strike authorization. And that if we do, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will take a strike.
I don’t want to go into a whole lot of detail here. I will send something later. But I want you to know that I am in total agreement with everything the Mike Farrell makes in his open letter below. And also that the issue at had represents less than 2% of our income and we are losing $1.7 million a week plus the 14% in pension and health.
Oh and the two studies that the DGA did said that there won’t be money in New Media until 2012 or even 2014. Our contracts last for 3 years.
Please consider what is written below:
THE GANG THAT COULDN’T SHOOT STRAIGHT STRIKES AGAIN
The Hollywood-centric “Membership First” faction that has controlled SAG’s National Board for most of the last five years chooses tactics – misinformation, tough talk, over-promising and ineptitude – that have run our union into the ground. Blustering and posturing instead of negotiating have clearly painted us into a corner. One would hope repeated failure might have caused a bit of light to dawn, but no. Today, with the country in the most catastrophic economic condition since 1929 and our entire industry reeling, they want you to vote for a strike.
A strike? Now? Don’t we look foolish enough already?
Do they think it’s a way to somehow save face?
What it looks like to me:
After realizing their dream of controlling SAG, the Membership First-led leadership fired a bright, capable guy who had only recently been hired. They insisted there would be no penalty, but they were wrong; it cost us a bundle. Then, after searching for months for just the right replacement, they hired an Executive Director who spoke their language and had no experience in the business.
Their team in place, they set out to realize their agenda, which included bringing the agents back into the Franchise Agreement, getting a raise in DVD residuals, and their long-sought dream of destroying AFTRA.
Their first step was a high-handed approach to the agents, asserting SAG’s authority over all actor’s contracts and threatening legal action if they didn’t toe the line. You may have heard the laughter. Needless to say, our leaders didn’t broadcast the humiliating rejection that ensued, but, as you may have noticed, we still have no Franchise Agreement with the major agencies.
Raising DVD residuals (labeled a ‘non-starter’ by the AMPTP) had to wait until the ’08 contract negotiations, so the next order of business was to Swift-Boat AFTRA and get it out of the way. Our leaders started by bad-mouthing the smaller union, criticizing its contracts and organizing methods. Then they tried to intimidate AFTRA into becoming the neutered bystander in the upcoming negotiations with the AMPTP, claiming that the 50/50 deal made between SAG and AFTRA under the Phase One agreement almost 30 years ago was suddenly unfair.
Using every trick they could think of, including attempting to muscle the NY and Regional Branches of SAG into line, they pushed AFTRA to knuckle under. To their great surprise, AFTRA’s leaders called their bluff, refusing to accept less than the equal partnership the long-honored agreement promised. Stunned by this surprisingly firm stand, SAG’s leaders backed down, claiming they hadn’t really meant it.
Subsequent disparagement and double-dealing by SAG leaders, however, resulted in AFTRA’s losing patience with the process. Deciding their negotiating partners were not trustworthy, AFTRA broke away and moved to meet with the AMPTP on its own. Caught flat-footed again, SAG quickly claimed the right to negotiate with the AMPTP first.
These talks, however, soon ground to a halt. Despite the fact that the WGA gave up on DVDs even before their strike and the DGA hadn’t brought them up, SAG negotiators placed the ‘non-starter’ DVD raise on the table. If that wasn’t trouble enough, they found themselves facing a complicated formula for New Media that both the DGA and WGA had already accepted.
Unwilling to acknowledge the years-long research on New Media done by the DGA and agreed to by the WGA, SAG chose to rely on tough talk and strident demands and fell on its face.
With SAG and the AMPTP now at an impasse, AFTRA sat down, worked with the DGA/WGA template and succeeded in negotiating a deal that improved on what SAG had been reaching for before their talks exploded, leaving SAG’s leadership with more egg on its face.
Still unable to see the rapidly fading light, SAG went back to the AMPTP and tried again to demand a deal that would have required the other side to renegotiate the agreements already reached with the DGA, WGA and now AFTRA. SAG would do anything, it appeared, but realize its mistakes.
Instead, it took the most illogical step available and tried to torpedo acceptance of the AFTRA contract by its members, most of whom hold cards in both unions. This involved spending a reported $150,000 or so of SAG dues money on a failed “educational” effort to interfere with the legitimate action of a sister union. They blew it again, the AFTRA contract was ratified, and the SAG leadership succeeded only in making themselves, and by extension all of us, look like bullies, and worse, fools.
Without a contract and looking more desperate all the time, SAG continued to talk tough and settled for a months-long period of stasis, during which production staggered, awaiting some resolution. This past fall, some new non-MF members were elected to the SAG National Board, which, as the economy began to crash around us, sent a Hail Mary to a federal mediator.
However, with the AMPTP sticking with its “final offer” and the same SAG negotiating team unwilling to let go of the DVD increase, the mediator made a stab, failed, saw the light and quickly headed back to Washington.
So now they want a strike.
A strike when AFTRA, with a contract, is putting its members to work.
A strike when TV shows are already moving to sign with AFTRA.
A strike that will put the few casts and crews now working on SAG projects out on the street with millions of other Americans.
A strike that, by stopping production in the middle of a collapsing economy, will condemn SAG, already a laughing stock, to the halls of infamy.
Why would they even think of a strike?
It be because winning that vote, no matter how devastating a strike would be, is the only way they can save face, the only way they can salvage the pretense that they actually knew what they were doing all along?
It appears that we’re now going to be paying for another “education campaign,” this time one that will explain how important it is that this strike vote succeed. Given recent history, I figure it’ll probably have something to do with the threat from hidden WMDs. And I’m sure there will be the admonition that “you’re either with us or with the terrorist AMPTP.”
Well I, for one, am not anti-union. God knows, as a member for over 40 years, I’m not anti-SAG. But I am anti-idiocy.
I’m voting no.
Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.