Strike Could Hit Actors Hardest

Nov 30, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg says he’s going to his union members seeking a strike authorization vote in December, but he may want to consider the warning of Los Angeles’ top economic analyst first.
Jack Kyser, senior VP and chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., warns that if a strike does happen, SAG members will feel the brunt of the impact.
“All parties would be negatively impacted by a strike, but SAG members would take it on the chin,” Mr. Kyser said in an e-mail. “More TV shows would go to [American Federation of Television & Radio Artists members]. And a large number of SAG members have other jobs to support themselves.”
“We are in a recession, and a lot of those jobs are going away,” Mr. Kyser added. “It’s time for rational thinking.”
One top writer-producer on a network show reacted with disbelief to the news that SAG might go out on strike.
“It’s suicide,” the writer said. “In this economy? It’s idiotic.”
SAG and media companies are deadlocked over a new-media residuals formula that will govern their next contract. The actors have been working without a deal since June 30.
A SAG strike resolution vote would increase the pressure on media companies, some of whom lost revenue when the Writers Guild of America struck for 100 days ending in February.
Federal mediation in the dispute between SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers failed Nov. 22.
“Management continues to insist on terms we cannot responsibly accept on behalf of our members,” SAG said in a statement after federal mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez ended discussions. “As previously authorized by the national board of directors, we will now launch a full-scale education campaign in support of a strike authorization referendum.”
The AMPTP says the new-media terms it’s offering SAG are comparable to the ones established with other unions earlier this year. Producers also say it is unseemly for SAG to demand more new-media compensation given the current economic environment.
“SAG has not justified why it deserves to be treated differently than the industry’s other guilds and unions—particularly at a time of extraordinary economic distress for both the country and the entertainment business,” the AMPTP said in a statement after mediation failed.
Mr. Rosenberg said in an interview with KTLA-TV Los Angeles that the AMPTP is only using the economic crisis as a “weapon” against a work stoppage. He hopes, however, that at least 75% of members will vote in favor of the strike authorization.
“We have to put bullets in our gun to get our deal,” Mr. Rosenberg said.
The AMPTP warned, “If SAG members authorize a strike, then a strike is all but guaranteed because SAG has shown no willingness to compromise on its unrealistic demands. Simply put, a vote to authorize a strike will lead inexorably to a strike, and a strike would cost SAG members far more than they can ever expect to gain.”
“SAG has bitten off more than they can chew,” said Norman K. Samnick, a partner at Bryan Cave LLP who has worked with labor and employment matters in the entertainment industry.
Mr. Samnick attributes the stalemate to SAG “trying to determine where [new media] is going” and making long-term decisions before fully seeing where the economics of new media are headed. He calls the AMPTP’s contract agreements with the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America and AFTRA “sophisticated” in that respect.
Specific dates for ballot mailings and due dates are yet to be decided, but Mr. Samnick estimated the whole process would take at least 30 to 40 days, including time required to meet with the AMPTP again with the results.
Any potential work stoppage would not begin until after the start of the new year, and could last six months at least, Mr. Samnick predicted. He doubts producers will cave before that, or at all.


  1. STRIKING WOULD CAUSE ECONOMIC CHAOS TO TENS OF THOUSANDS OF ACTORS, FILM AND TELEVISION CREWS, WRITERS AND DIRECTORS AND TENS OF THOUSANDS OF SMALL BUSINESS VENDORS TO THE INDUSTRY. The little guys will suffer unable to pay their daily bills for shelter, food and clothes for their kids. This is a disaster in the making.
    SOLUTION: THE PARTIES SHOULD GO TO NON-APPEALABLE BINDING ARBITRATION BEFORE RETIRED JUDGES. The Arbitration could start in thirty days, with both sides submitting their Judge’s names and three picked from a hat. The parties should split the cost and put on their cases within 45 days, result retroactive the beginning of the Arbitration. The Arbitration should have a ending date fixed by the majority of the hearing Judges and the result fixed for 2 years.
    That way every one can go to work and the issues can be resolved without the stupidity of the old fashioned war games called strike.
    We must avoid leaders who pound their chest and end up hurting the industry in the process.
    This is life and death for many and greed and power must not enter the picture.

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