Editorial: SAG Should Join Its Fellow Unions and Deal

Jun 1, 2008  •  Post A Comment

We heaved a sigh of relief last week when the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, the second-biggest actors union, had made a tentative labor deal with the media companies. Congratulations to AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on making progress. Now it’s time for the Screen Actors Guild to take the same, measured approach AFTRA did.
The AFTRA agreement set a viable template for SAG to follow. With due respect to the union’s obligation to fight hard for its members’ rights, SAG should dispense with the usual posturing. It’s time for the industry to put this ugly, disruptive episode behind it. If SAG gets in line with its sister unions, it’s not too late to salvage the 2008-09 season. If SAG over-reaches, the consequences could be disastrous.
The past six months has been a difficult time for the television industry. The Writers Guild of America went on strike for 100 days, ending in February. That labor action didn’t end soon enough to avoid disrupting the flow of pilot production; it cost the entertainment economy money it will never recoup and potentially soured a declining base of viewers on the medium of TV.
As much as we regret those losses, we credit the WGA for securing new rights for its members. Those protections will help writers and media companies adjust to the seismic shifts in content-distribution technology that are rocking the TV industry.
The Directors Guild of America’s negotiators helped win those gains, followed by the WGA reaching an agreement. And then AFTRA did the same.
Now for SAG.
We pen this editorial with due regard for the dynamics of negotiation. No one wants to bargain from a position of weakness, or indicate to their opposites that they are too willing to strike a deal. In this particular case, however, the facts dictate a reasoned approach.
From the perspective of realpolitik, SAG has very little leverage to push for materially better terms than its sister unions received. The lack of support for another strike likely would put SAG on the picket lines all by itself. And the guild’s members themselves probably wouldn’t have much stomach for a fight.
Did the writers, directors, producers and AFTRA actors get everything they wanted? No. But SAG is unlikely to, either.
The fact of the matter is that the issues that would hold up a bargain revolve around a future business model that is hard to predict right now. Let’s wait to draw a line in the sand until we know more about what the landscape will look like for TV’s digital future.
(Updated fifth paragraph to correct chronology)


  1. I am all for the union,I wish them to get all they want and more but, I think it is quite foolish of SAG to go up against the producers without the support of AFTRA. I honestly would love to believe that they will get all they want and more but, alone they will achieve little to nothing. It just doesn’t work alone, united they stand divided they fall. Without the help of AFTRA, SAG should quit while they are ahead, this could jepordize many aspiring actors who really can’t afford it.

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