SAG Panel Says Board Should Take Strike Vote

LOS ANGELES After months of seeing its talks with the Hollywood producers go nowhere, the Screen Actors Guild’s negotiating committee Wednesday urged its national board to take a strike authorization vote of its membership.

The national board, newly constituted in the wake of recent elections, will meet Oct. 18.

“A strike authorization vote of the membership is necessary to overcome the employers’ intransigence,” the resolution said. It also called for the national board to adopt a campaign advocating a “yes” vote, giving the bargaining team the authority to call a strike when the board “deems it necessary and unavoidable to do so.”

A “yes” vote would be required by 75 percent of the membership to authorize a strike.

Much like the writers strike last year, a strike by SAG would disrupt TV, film and Web production and could have consequences for advertisers — though the actors have already come to terms with ad groups on commercial production by extending an existing deal.

The decision to ask members for strike authorization could be a watershed for the stalled talks. If the request received approval, SAG negotiators could go back to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers armed with a solid indication of the rank and file’s resolve. Should it fail, however, the union would have to choose between accepting the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers’ current offer or continuing trying to break the current stalemate from a decidedly weaker position.

The negotiating panel had been expected to a pass a measure Wednesday giving the go-ahead to the membership vote, but instead it deferred and passed the advisory resolution, which puts the decision to make a formal request in the hands of the union’s highest body.

Earlier this summer, the national board, led by the majority faction MembershipFirst, had given the negotiating committee the authority to seek strike authorization. The panel’s decision to make an advisory resolution likely reflects deference to the new national board seated after last month’s SAG elections, of which the MembershipFirst faction no longer holds majority control.

The call for the strike vote brought a prompt response from the AMPTP:

“Is this really the time for anyone associated with the entertainment business to be talking about going on strike? Not only is the business suffering from recent economic conditions, but if ever there was a time when Americans wanted the diversions of movies and television, it is now.”

The negotiating panel resolution reiterated SAG’s outstanding issues with the studios’ final offer, which was issued June 30 and brought an end to negotiations. They are retaining the force majeure provision (or termination) and full jurisdiction and higher residuals from new media productions.

The AMPTP statement addressed that request, too:

“The DGA, WGA and AFTRA reached agreement on comparable terms months ago, during far better economic times, and it is unrealistic for SAG negotiators now to expect even better terms during this grim financial climate. This is the harsh economic reality, and no strike will change that reality.”

Wednesday’s resolution comes on the heels of a letter sent to the AMPTP on Monday by SAG chief negotiator Doug Allen and union president Alan Rosenberg urging a return to formal negotiations. The AMPTP rejected the overture.