Years back our SAG president, Melissa Gilbert (who is a friend), tried unsuccessfully to merge SAG and AFTRA citing the need to build one strong union to combat the many foces that were going to come at actors in the near future. That vote was angrily and noisily opposed by Membership First, a group within our union that held firm and lobbied and saw the vote tip ever so slightly in their favor so no merger happened.
Now let's see what has happened since they were able to have their mandate met. They got Alan Rosenberg elected who oversaw our next contract negotiations. He spent his first day on the job firing the top civilian employee at SAG and paid him $2 million not come to work, so he could go hire someone he thought could really get the union going in the right direction.
SAG went into a defacto strike right after the WGA strike because Mr. Rosenberg alienated AFTRA during contract talks with the Producers Union. So, the Producers negotiated a contract with AFTRA and AFTRA suddenly had any TV show contract it wanted. Producers and AFTRA went back to work, SAG was left trying to pretend it still mattered in TV. Feel free to mark this as the point at which SAG lost most of it's strength and credibilty in Hollywood.
Actors now suffer from the keen insight of Membership First and Alan Rosenberg who held firm and kept the unions divided based on little else but silly pride. The ironic thing is… you members still believe that you have some credibilty in this current discussion. Clearly you are taking notes from our political leaders that never let the facts get in the way of an empty bluster.
To those of you in that group formerly called Membership First who hide behind "independant" monikers I beg of you this; Please go away. Please stop helping the union. You are the billionaires seeking bigger tax breaks in a failing economy. You are the oil industry seeking less regulation after fouling generations of sealife. You are the financial titans asking to double down on the bet that propelled the planet into near depression.
If you read today's Backstage you saw this;
SAG pension and Heatlh minimums are being raised raised. The scarcity of employer contributions under the TV contract can be linked to SAG's diminishing representation in scripted network prime-time television. In the last three pilot seasons, the vast majority of new television programs have been covered by American Federation of Television and Radio Artists contracts. Competition between the unions for prime-time jurisdiction has been cited as one of the motivating factors for the current effort to merge SAG and AFTRA. A formal merger plan is expected to be presented to the unions' boards of directors early next year.
For those of you saying hindsight is always 20/20, you're wrong. The coming divide-and-conquer plan by producers was easy to see back when Melissa proposed and pushed for this merger because video tape filming of regular shows and feature films was exploding. It was silly to think that producers would work with SAG exclusively because they always had before.
You really have done enough damage Mem First alumni, please go away and let those folks who can see farther than their ego attempt to build something called a union. One, "can't go around us" union of actors that will have a hard enough time combatting internet delivery and the coming battle over residuals, to still be battling one another about whose union is better.