New Rift Opens in SAG over Strike Vote
Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild plan to hold an emergency meeting after the union's New York board came out against holding a strike authorization vote.
The guild plans to send out ballots Jan. 2 to its 100,000 members, asking for them to give union leaders permission to call a strike. Votes will be tabulated by Jan. 23.
But the statement by the New York Division Board of Directors, calling for their union to halt the vote, is the latest obstacle to a possible strike.
The New York board has 14 of the 71 representatives on SAG's national board. They asked for an emergency meeting of that board to appoint new negotiators in the hopes of salvaging talks with the studios.
In a statement, SAG president Alan Rosenberg agreed to a national meeting — but not for the purpose the New York board requested. He said it would address "the ramifications of this extraordinarily destructive and subversive action," noting that the New York board had supported the idea of a strike in October.
Many actors are hesitant to hold a strike during a recession, and the the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, is appealing directly to actors to vote against strike authorization.
An advertisement the group purchased to run Monday in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter challenges statements by Rosenberg and argues that actors' benefits will increase significantly under the studios' latest contract offer.
"There they go again," SAG said in a statement Sunday night. "The AMPTP’s ad is great fiction, with convoluted bullet points and confused messages — and, it’s completely wrong."
SAG leaders say the contract producers are offering doesn't adequately pay actors for videos that are streamed online. They also say actors should earn more from DVD sales, and deserve pay and control over product placements in shows and movies.
A strike would affect shows covered by SAG — mostly expensive, filmed series like Lost. Taped shows, such as Gary Unmarried, Rules of Engagement, and 90210 are covered by another union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
That union, which also includes 44,000 people who also belong to SAG, has already accepted a contract similar to the one studios are offering SAG.
The strike would deal another blow to the entertainment industry within a year of the writers strike that sidelined the 2007-08 television season. One estimate placed the economic impact of the three-month strike, which was resolved in February, at $2.5 billion.
AMPTRA estimates actors would lose $2.5 million a day by striking.
Working actors — those who make most of their income from film and TV — account for just about 10 percent of SAG members. The rest earn less than $28,000 a year from acting work, but many work in side jobs that could also be affected by the strike.
Actors who have spoken out against a strike include Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, M*A*S*H star Mike Farrell, and former SAG president Richard Masur.
Rob Morrow, former SAG president Ed Asner, Justine Bateman and Viggo Mortensen are among those who appear to be in favor of a strike.