SAG, Producers Reach Labor Deal

Apr 17, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have reached a tentative agreement for a new labor contract, calming fears of a strike that had put Hollywood on edge for nearly a year.
The tentative deal contemplates a two-year contract, the Wall Street Journal reported. Details of the agreement between the studios and SAG will not be revealed until Sunday, April 19, when SAG’s national board of directors meet for a videoconference in New York and Los Angeles.
“As a producer and a member of SAG, I’m especially gratified that both sides found a way to extend the olive branch at this troubled economic time,” said Karen Bailey, VP of production at Starz Media. “I’m glad we were able to find that common ground. It’s good for everyone.”
The labor dispute, which initially centered on how actors would be compensated for new-media deeply divided SAG. Those splits between hardliners and members who supported a settlement, may continue to reverberate as the contract is finalized.
“The hardliners on the board in the Guild have pledged to oppose almost any deal achievable, and their issue is still new media,” said Jonathan Handel, an entertainment attorney with Troy Gould and a blogger on digital media law. “There’s no deal until the ink is dry, and this has to go first to the National Board and then to the members for ratification. There will be a fight.”
Mr. Handel predicts that hardliners with the MembershipFirst faction of SAG will voice opposition to the contract. Even if the board agrees to send the contract to members for voting, if 25% of the board opposes the contract, the ballot materials will go out with a minority report, which could take anywhere between 10 days to two weeks to draft. After that, members would get a three-week voting period, and ratification may happen as early as late May.
Only 50% of the voting members need to approve the contract in order for it to pass.
The damage to SAG extends beyond internal political fissures. This pilot season saw a large switch in the number of projects that signed under the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists—something Mr. Handel says SAG may not easily recover from in the future.
“SAG has already dropped the ball on that,” Mr. Handel said.
(Editor: Baumann. Updates throughout. 4 p.m.)