SAG Actors, the next casualty of war.

If you read the business section of the LA Times today you might have seen an article about how the current SAG President and his #1 civilian executive are prepping for the strongest showing of negotiating force that the producers/studios have seen yet.

What I find interesting is that as this president prepares to take on the producers and not give an inch, he’s also doing what he can to alienate AFTRA, and SAG New York. Don’t get me wrong, AFTRA is a crap union. I say that as a AFTRA member who has yet to talk with anyone at the union who doesn’t agree with me. Every person I’ve dealt with in discussing my “residuals contract” for the TV show I did for three years has said that they agree it’s a crap deal and it was done “to get the producer to sign with them.”

So I can see why one might think it’s good business to cut loose of this union except that AFTRA brings with it two very valuable things…

26,000 members (that’s 70,000 members minus the 44,000 dual card holders), and the ability to sign contracts with producers in LA to produce projects on “tape.” So producers, being who they are, will surely go to the union that makes it lucrative for them to make a TV show. Not having AFTRA in accord with us is like saying that we as SAG actors don’t care about the projects shot on video. Which is easily half the TV pilots every year and at least a third of the TV shows on the air. Plus a growing number of movies.

So here’s my congestion on the subject of SAG striking when it gets it’s turn at the big table, how do you show power by splitting your union up with rhetoric like what was in the paper today? I’ve heard forever the stupid argument of, “I don’t want a guy in Utah voting on contracts that don’t even affect him.” Guess what? SAG took our initiation $ and our dues $, the current president doesn’t get to tell anyone they don’t matter because of their location or earnings…hence the term UNION. Solidarity. We are in this together, or we are a 120,000 member punchline.

AFTRA should be brought up to our standard, not shunned. Doing this gives producers who don’t want to go to Canada an outlet for their projects here. One of the big points I make in my book is that you should always treat fellow actors with great respect and not fall prey to the petty attitude of competing with them at auditions. They are not your real competition. They are all you will have to rely on when you need the advice or support of someone who really understands your plight.

This SAG war is the same thought. AFTRA, and SAG NY, as well as SAG Kansas and every other branch are our brothers and sisters. If you allow a dialog of “us and them” to continue it will derail this union. You will only have yourself to blame when you go unemployed until 2009.

I am all for being hard nosed about a fair deal from producers who made nearly 10 billion dollars last year, I just don’t see how that is possible while simultaneously dividing your ranks. We start out each day as a fragile bunch, our only strength is in having each other. If we really are as powerful as the article says we are, then why all the chest pounding? It’s a hollow battle cry of “We have the numbers to get the deal no other union could!” when it’s followed by, “And we’ll do that as soon as we get rid of those AFTRA and SAG NY actors!”

I say it’s our union and we don’t have to let it happen.

I remember the commercial strike in 2000. I remember commercial producers shooting things under fake names and using non-union talent. I remember actors finding out about these secret shoots and sending SAG there to shut the set down. I remember Tiger Woods being scolded for shooting a commercial while the strike was on. The very same things will happen if we strike, unless every actor, not just the union actors, every actor is invited to say, “I will be there in front of your camera one day, and when I get there I want to be paid fairly. I and no one in my ranks will budge until this is the case.” That would be power.

I am quite sure SAG saved my actor’s life with it’s pay scale minimums, protections, residuals and health care and pension benefits. I love this union. Love it. I am struggling to see the intelligence of dividing it in an effort to become stronger.

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