SAG Strike Vote Delayed Over Divisions
George Clooney, Martin Sheen
The Screen Actors Guild will delay its strike authorization vote by two weeks as the organization's leadership tries to contain growing dissent in the union.
The guild had planned to send out ballots Jan. 2 and to tabulate them by Jan. 23. But it now plans to delay sending out ballots until after an emergency meeting to be held Jan. 12 and 13, SAG national executive director Doug Allen announced late Monday.
Allen said he and SAG president Alan Rosenberg had agreed to delay the vote to "address the unfortunate division and restore consensus."
"This division does not help our effort to get an agreement from the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers that our members will ratify,'' Allen said. "This will provide us with more time to conduct member education and outreach on the referendum before the balloting."
In order to call a strike, the union would need 75 percent of the members who cast ballots to vote in favor of authorization. SAG has roughly 110,000 members.
"While almost 100 high-profile members and 2,524 total members have endorsed the strike authorization vote mandated by the national board, more than 100 high profile actors and 1,373 actors have lent their names to the opposition campaign," Allen said.
George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Russell Crowe, Sally Field, Robert Redford, Julianne Moore and Susan Sarandon are among those encouraging other members to vote no, saying a strike in the midst of a recession would be ill-timed.
Those who support authorization include Martin Sheen, Mel Gibson, Hal Holbrook, Holly Hunter, Rob Schneider, Alicia Witt, and former SAG president Ed Asner.
SAG covers filmed shows, mostly expensive dramas like Lost. Taped shows, such as Gary Unmarried, Rules of Engagement, and 90210 are covered by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
The unions share shows that are recorded digitally.
AFTRA, which includes 44,000 people who also belong to SAG, has already accepted a contract similar to the one studios are offering SAG.
AMPTP, which represents studios, made its final offer June 30 as SAG's contract expired. The union says the latest offer is insufficient in terms of new-media jurisdiction and residuals.
SAG's New York division announced Dec. 12 that they opposed the strike authorization vote and called for an emergency board meeting to replace the negotiating committee. Members at a New York town meeting a few days later accused Rosenberg and Allen of botching negotiations.
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 be another welt for 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.
AMPTP 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.