Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

What's Going on with SAG and AFTRA?

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

April 4, 2008

Comments (10)

Jason GeorgeAfter an announcement late last week, it appears that the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) wants to suspend joint bargaining with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

This may be the case for the current governing body of AFTRA but I heard straight from some heavy hitters that the move to suspend joint negotiations is not a decision representative of the entire body of membership, including individuals from the AFTRA Leadership Team who wish to see change, reconcile the differences between the two unions and hope for a merger.

Read this enlightening missive that debunks several myths and misinformation about what is going on behind the scenes from the perspective of working actor and current AFTRA National Board member, Los Angeles local member and LA's fourth vice president, Jason George.

Read this to help you research before making your decision at the vote.


Letter from Jason George

Hey Folks,
 
A bunch of you are asking me what's going on with SAG and AFTRA as well as wondering who you should vote for in the AFTRA re-run election.  I'll start with the re-run election because it's a faster answer. 
 

VOTE FOR THE AFTRA LEADERSHIP TEAM

I'm one of their candidates and I'm asking you to vote for me again.  I'm also asking you to go to www.aftraleadershipteam.org, click on candidates, and print it out as a voter guide. They're people I trust and they represent every category of working actor from Series regulars to Guest Stars to Singers and Dancers to Stunts to Voice Overs and Sound recordings and Broadcasters to Background.


Do NOT vote for AFTRA Artists:

They are the people who in SAG go by the name Membership First and have torn our sister union apart and ruined our relationship with Agents.  They are also directly responsible for the current division between AFTRA and SAG and are the peope with their foot on the gas trying to drive our union over a cliff called strike.  I'm not afraid of a strike -- never have been -- but I believe it is a last resort when negotiating fails not a presumption you make before you even go to the bargaining table.


Why a Re-run Election?

Also know that the Re-run election is happening because of some technicalities that the Dept. of Labor found, mostly dealing with a snafu in the original election's timing of when some members received their ballot and when ballots were due.  They also wanted to firm up the means by which AFTRA LA guarantees representation to categories like singers and stunt performers.
 
It's important to note that the Dept of Labor found no merit in the allegations brought by the members of AFTRA Artists/Membership First.  In fact, no member's dues money is being used in this re-run.  The tab is being picked up as a make-good for the aforementioned timing technicality.
 
~~

Now to the suspension of joint negotiations between SAG and AFTRA

And it's important to note that word SUSPENSION because AFTRA wants to work with the institution of SAG but the current leadership in Hollywood has made it impossible.

Here's the condensed list of grievances:
 

THEY TRIED TO RIG THE VOTE

All of the Proportionality and Block voting stuff in the past year was all an attempt to give the Hollywood division of SAG (ie Membership First) control of the votes on the Joint Negotiating Committee.  To what end?  To Strike when they want regardless what the rest of the members believe is most prudent.  As I said, I've never been afraid of a strike but you have to give me the facts, show me the logic and let me have my vote.  To rig the vote or doctor the information is completely usurping democracy.


THEY RAIDED AFTRA SHOWS

The #1 sin amongst all unions -- especially sister unions with shared jurisdiction -- is the raiding of shows to steal the contract. They tried to raid THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL -- a daytime soap that has always been pure AFTRA jurisdiction -- and bring it under a SAG contract.  This was latest in a year long campaign of SAG attacking AFTRA shows and attacking AFTRA as an institution.  Yes, there is a difference of opinion in how to organize cable shows but AFTRA has always said that we should jointly negotiate cable as well.  In other words, get in a room, debate the merits of the different cable organizing philosophies and vote.  DEMOCRACY.

I feel confident that people will respond to the fact that SAG's method chases 50% of it's cable shows to Canada while AFTRA's method keeps 85% of it's cable shows in the US. But cable is shared jurisdiction, daytime broadcast television is not.  There has never been a conversation about Daytime dramas so the raiding of THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL was way over the line by anybody's standards.  The AFL-CIO has already gotten involved and made calls admonishing SAG and charges will be almost definitely be filed.  Some of the SAG folks said "what if the soap drops the decertification and stays AFTRA?".  Doesn't matter.  If I'm doing business with you and while we're shaking hands you try to shoot me in the head, the fact that you missed and apologized won't stop me from suspending our business relationship. The bottom line is: How can you negotiate with a partner you fundamentally can't trust?


THEY PUT MEMBERS' LIVELIHOODS AT RISK

I believe the members on THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL were used for political purposes by Membership First without ever being fully informed of the possible ramifications.  If they decertifed the show to go under a SAG contract it would take one to three years.  During that time they would not be AFTRA or SAG, they would be on there own, at the mercy of the Studios & Networks with no union protections.  Moreover, if SAG managed to become their union, SAG would have to renogotiate the contract minimums for the show from scratch.  They couldn't use the AFTRA contract as a starting point.  So they would have to use considerable leverage -- perhaps even a strike -- just to get back to the same minimums they had under AFTRA.  Given the current state of Daytime Dramas, it's very possible they could get a worse deal.  The fact that Membership First would put these folks at risk for political gain is unconscionable.  The only thing worse would be is Membership First put these people in a dangerous position without knowing all the danger it put them in.

This isn't a game, it's people lives and livelihoods.  Of course, this is all an attempt to get actors into one union, something I agree with wholeheartedly.  But there's a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it.  The right way is called MERGER.


Getting a Good Contract in a Responsible Manner

All that said, I believe we will get a strong contract for the members.  AFTRA's negotiating committee has folks on it like James Cromwell (Oscar winner), Tess Harper (Oscar nominee), Stephen Collins (7th Heaven), Morgan Fairchild, and myself just to name a few.  We will get a good contract and we will get it in a responsible manner.
 
I also believe the Suspension of AFTRA and SAG's Joint Negotitation Agreement is only temporary.  I believe that membership will finally realize that in the last twenty seven years of peace between our unions and between the unions and agents, only the last four or five have been ridiculously vitrolic. 
 
What changed and destroyed the peace?

Membership First/Aftra Artists came into power.
 
VOTE AFTRA ARTISTS/MEMBERSHIP FIRST OUT OF OFFICE AND THE ATMOSPHERE WILL CHANGE
 
 
If anybody has any further questions about the re-run election or about the AFTRA-SAG controversies, please leave a comment and I'll try to answer any questions you have.

Hope it helps.

Thank you for reading,
 
Jason George
 

Related Topics: AFTRA, AFTRA Leadership Team, agents, child, Hollywood, how to, Jason George, Los Angeles, radio, SAG, union


Comments


    Thanks for the information, Jason.

    I fought the good fight for both AFTRA and SAG for years in the "hinterlands" as they used to call all branches and locals outside of New York and L.A.. One of the most frustrating things for all of us was the reluctance to merge the two unions. Merger has always seemed to be more of a problem with regard to the protection of the territories of those in charge rather than the benefit of the masses. The current problems just go to show that the members - many of whom belong to both unions - would be better served by a merged union. Of course, that would require some to give up at least a little of their power and work for the good of the membership as a whole.

    Thank you for fighting the good fight. Hopefully, AFTRA will get back into the joint negotiations. I can't imagine how anyone can be served or any equity guaranteed unless they at least negotiate together with SAG!

    Posted by:

      As a member of SAG for over 20 years, and an Aftra Member for nearly as long, I have advocated and voted for merger every time it came up. To no avail. Powers on both sides have held onto their power and pitted the two unions against each other; the result of which has only been an advantage the producers. Follow the money - as long as we compete against each other for jurisdiction, we do the producers a service.

      My personal experience has shown SAG to be the "real" actors union. AFTRA is the one that takes your money before you even see it. After 10 years and thousands in dues and fees, the one time I sought AFTRA help to get a producer to pay for using a TV commercial he had pulled out of mothballs, I was told by AFTRA that I was on my own - but don't forget to pay them 15% if I get a good verdict in small claims court.

      I was livid.

      SAG, on the other hand, has always been there for me. Oftentimes collecting on projects and claims I wasn't even aware of. The one time I needed assistance for legal action against a producer SAG attorneys flew in to represent me and helped me win a sizeable settlement. No charge. In contrast, AFTRA did nothing to help me except stick out their hand for a tip.

      If AFTRA ceased to exist tomorrow - I wouldn't notice the loss. And SAG would be much stronger without AFTRA to strengthen the Producers' position.

      Vote 'em out. Merger is the answer. United we stand.

      Tim Powell

      Posted by:

        SAG is being driven over a cliff by the Membership First loons, and AFTRA is so frustrated with trying to reason with people that need to be medicated, they are going off on their own until SAG elects more reasonable leadership.

        Remember, Merger passed BOTH times among Working, Dual-Card holders in SAG and BOTH times among all AFTRA Members.

        It was thanks to the anti-merger efforts of "The Performers Alliance", which morphed into "Membership First" that it was defeated both times.

        Those of us on the board back then warned of EXACTLY this kind of intra-Union warfare as New Media became the elephant in the room...

        Posted by:
        • VOX Daily Reader
        • April 11, 2008 2:15 PM

          Jason,

          Thanks very much for the straight dope on this debacle.

          I too am in the "hitherlands" and frustrated by the BS that's gone on far too long and benefitted no one but the top 2% earners who make more many than I can imagine.
          Jimmy Hoffa would be proud.

          MERGER, MERGER, MERGER!!!

          DC Goode

          Posted by:

            Neither of the unions do much good for anyone aside from a relatively small elite group. The commercial contracts strike of 2000 was ridiculous in the face of the economy then and drove business everywhere else in the world. The unions response to things is to stem runaway production. Of course that simply means anything north of Ventura, with the exception of what New York has its meat hooks into. The officers get to fly all over the country on the union's dime (our dime) and essentially promote themselves more than the unions. The scrub president of SAG couldn't get a job to save his life and then he takes office and gets every gimme job there is.

            Let's call a spade a spade. These are not unions. There is no hiring hall. Auditions almost never give any advantage to existing members (vs. must joins or non-union actors. Anybody with $1,500 can join either of the unions. There is no system of hierarchy or apprenticeship. There is no accountability.

            It's a relatively few taking advantage of the general ignorance of the membership. There will be no merger because the monies generated by the pension fund management are absurd and neither side will want to give up control.

            And when you think about, the unions should be rolling in dough - stinking rich, when thousands and thousands of actors contribute to the Health, welfare and pension fund and relatively few will ever collect.

            Figure it out folks - it's not about you or me getting the job. It's simply that SAG and AFTRA want theirs. If that means having new members join at an alarmingly fast rate just to suck up their $1,500 admission fees, then so be it.

            The greedy people all want to suck up every nickle off the internet, cell phones and any other thing they can thing of as they battle for who gets to suck the blood, SAG or AFTRA.

            And take a look at the "National Board" that Jason wants you to elect. They're all from Los Angeles. The same Los Angeles that he says has too much control.

            There is no truth, just easier to understand versions of lies. Oh and hey, don't forget to pay your dues now!!!!!!!!!

            Posted by:
            • George Ramos
            • April 11, 2008 4:25 PM

              Thank you for this wonderful article.

              As a former SAG board member of many years, I had the unpleasant experience of sitting through many a rant by the LA loonies with "Membership First". We experienced their outbursts and tantrums every meeting over literally ... EVERYTHING. It was so ... dramatic and phony. Much like "Membership First". It should be called "Membership FIST" because that's what you get punched with if you cross them.

              They're insane. There. I said it. From One Particular Actor who changed her name to "oneparticularactor" so she'd be first, alphabetically, on the ballot, to Kent "Adam 12" McCord (Remember him? From 50 years ago? Me either.) pulling out his "honorary LAPD badge" to prove to the rest of the board during his "earnest" plea to follow Membership First's sage guidance - and, Dear SAG Board Members, he simply MUST be "earnest and honest" because, golly, he's got an honorary LAPD badge. See? Everyone look! The "LAPD honesty" irony was lost on him, I guess, to the epitome of the "redheaded schoolyard bully," who argued irrationally with never-ending gusto against anything that Ms. Gilbert supported because he didn't beat her in the election. Oh, and let's not forget the other LA actor who doesn't ever get cast or act but keeps getting reelected because she's on the Membership First roster and worms her way into every subcommittee (who knew she was gay, disabled, old AND a minority?) she can so she stays "relevant". The near-tears speeches she delivers every meeting about "solidarity" and "how important" the union is to her - "it's family" - are nearly worth the price of union dues. She's just that girl who wants to belong - at any cost. The quiet, unassuming cheerleader who kills the competition to get on the team. And she's found her her place with Membership First. They all just want to "belong", the rag-tag bunch of unpleasant, socially awkward, cruel people who nobody wants to spend much time with. One has to commend them on their Oscar-caliber performances, but ponder at why they waste their talent in the business meeting when serious business was being discussed. They've ALL found their place with Membership First. They've all got a few cheerleaders buried in their backyards (metaphorically, one hopes, but remember, this is LA).

              And what's worse, in joint meetings with AFTRA when SAG would be out of control and throwing tantrums like naughty three-year-olds, I always felt like I had to apologize to AFTRA for Membership First's bad behavior, like the guy married to the woman who gets drunk and fights with people at every party before puking then finally passing out. "Sorry - she's just a little out of control right now. She's going through ... some things ... She's not really like this at home, really!" That's what joint meetings were like.

              THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO RUN SAG!!! SAG's current leadership is SICK. They're so incredibly litigious, that they use the law to badger people out of the union, to disrupt business, to control and monopolize the discussions. They have no idea what it means to run a union, or run a business, or be a DEMOCRACY! Demanding a minority report for every action passed by the National Board when they didn't have the percentage to get a minority report for example. They simply had to be heard, everyone else be damned, because you simply can't compete with Membership First's amazing brain power, skills of persuasion or business savvy. They took the brilliant leadership and stability brought back by Ms. Gilbert and drove it off a cliff. The LA board is so diseased, so morally corrupt, so absolutely "out of body", so not on target, so business-naive, so inexperienced and yet SO full of themselves, so obsessed with their "success" that there's nowhere for this union to go ... but down in flames.

              I'll bring the marshmallows.

              Posted by:
              • Former Board Member
              • April 11, 2008 6:02 PM

                Wow, I am truly amazed at the behavior going on here. When do people stand up and do what is right? Set your Ego's aside and look at the big picture, consider the consequences before you speak...Work together for the higher good of all!

                This is like girls fighting on the internet and then broadcasting it because they think its their moment to be recognized, even if that means its for something pathetically weak. Please, don't be that desperate people.

                Their are actors everywhere out of work, having to take non-union jobs to just stay in the game all the while here you are squabbling like a bunch of babies.

                The house is burning down do you see that? Get the hose out and help each other pick it up and hold it to save the building before you loose everything and everyone in it.

                Posted by:
                • Another concerned member
                • April 14, 2008 11:40 AM

                  "Their (sic) are actors everywhere out of work, having to take non-union jobs to just stay in the game..."

                  Oh horrors!....having to take a NON-UNION job!!!! Welcome to the rest of the world, honey.

                  Why would most of us in the new wave of voice-acting ever WANT to join a union? What's possibly in it for us?...especially when we see a bunch of union grown-ups acting like snotty-nose kids on a playground? THEN see posts of disgust like the ones above.

                  Posted by:
                  • Someone who'll never join a union
                  • April 15, 2008 3:19 AM

                    Coming from the BTL people in the industry, we're sick and tired of strikes, runaway production and lower wages.

                    Over two thirds of SAG are minimal or less wage earners and those are the ones that are encouraging a strike. They could care less about the the actual working actor, other professionals and some confess they welcome a strike out of petty jealousy of working performers.

                    I for one hope that the WGA and AMPTP deal is satisfactory and that SAG will come to terms quickly. As the writers strike wiped out a lot of BTL people not to mention what the some networks and studios did to some showrunners, staff writers along with the cancelling of TV shows and shelving movies. You can expect more of the same should SAG go on strike.

                    Will both sides come to terms because a strike will ruin this city and this industry.


                    Posted by:
                    • C.W. Harter
                    • June 9, 2008 8:27 PM

                      SAG NEVER RAIDED BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL..Truth is Bold approached SAG and SAG declined..

                      You are misleading your readers Jason...

                      And quite honestly the minimal and less wage earners in SAG are NOT encouraging a strike because they have the most to lose from a strike (they live paycheck to paycheck !!! so common sense tells you they would never vote to strike) THE TRUTH IS THE AMPTP WANTS TO OWN AN ACTORS UNION AND AFTRA IS MORE THAN WILLING TO GET IN BED WITH THEM>>>YOU MAKE ME SICK JASON !!!
                      It is now months later and look at what has happened !!!90% or better of new shows are now aftra !!!Not SAG and the BG actorsa are being paid less (Royal Pains producers cut a deal with aftra that 2 hours a day is deducted in wages from travel time for background!!!SAG WOULD NEVER ALLOW THAT..Everyone who reads your blog should know the truth !!!

                      In new media one of the principles on 30 rock is doing a webisode and NOT PAYING UNION ACTORS ANYTHING>>UNLESS THEY ARE A NAME ACTOR !!!This is why SAG was so adament about the internet aspect of wages !!!Only name actors can negotiate pay..and the rest of us are left out in the cold and must suffer this injustice...Tell your readers the truth Jason !!!!

                      Posted by:
                      • Kevin
                      • June 30, 2010 12:38 PM

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