SAG (Screen Actors Guild) may go on strike and everyone in the film and television industry is up in arms about it. SAG says that AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) won’t give them fair terms on a new contract; and AMPTP says that SAG’s demands are unrealistic. Eveyone in the film/television industry including writers, directors, and crewmembers worry about weather they will have jobs to go to if things aren’t resolved for SAG.
To get you up to speed, here’s a quick overview of course of events that led up to the current SAG strike scare. I also suggest you go to the above links in the first paragraph, for more background.
SAG’s contract with AMPTP expired on July 1, 2008. And AMPTP made it’s last and final offer, with terms that were unacceptable, to SAG. Everyone was reluctant to consider a strike only a few months after the WGA’s strike ended.
Rather than calling for it’s members to vote for strike authorization at that time, SAG continued to work under the expired contract while SAG union leaders continued to try creative ways to keep the negotiations with AMPTP going; including getting a third party federal mediator. Still with no resolution in sight at the end of the mediation process, SAG announced that it would be sending out a strike referendum ballot to SAG members in December.
What this means is that if 75% of SAG voting members vote “Yes”, SAG will have the authorization to strike. It does not mean that SAG will, but it does mean that SAG can strike if no agreement is reached.
The contract is complicated so (to the best of my understanding) I’ve attempted to provide brief, simplified outlines of only 3 of many the issues that remain unresolved at this juncture:
- AMPTP wants SAG to eliminate force majeure protections from the contract. This protects Actors when production stops as the result of an “act of God” has been and is one of the most basic protections of a union contract, which has existed since the first SAG contract in 1937.
- DVDs: Residuals and benefits have not been improved for Actors for 22 years. Because in 1986 video was considered “experimental,” AMPTP only agreed to give Actors 1% of the revenue generated through Video (now DVD) sales with promises to review it once it became a valid vertical for film. DVD sales are currently the biggest revenue source for film/television products. Yet, AMPTA has never increased the Actors’ DVD residuals and benefits. And refuses to do so now.
- New Media: Over the past few years the use of Internet to watch movies and TV (weather on your computer or on your phone), has become another vital revenue source for these products. SAG wants to get paid and receive residuals for work in this medium. AMPTP says that it’s still an “experiment,” so they want to keep Internet projects non-union and without residual compensation. AMPTP is ignoring that as technology had improved, how and where we watch our shows has changed. Clearly, this is an issue that SAG cannot ignore. It is not a potential medium for the film industry (as AMPTP argues) but a very current one.
An aside: New Media compensation was also an issue in the WGA (Writers Guild of America) negotiations, one that continues to be problematic. In fact on November 20, 2008, the WGA filed for arbitration against AMPTP for non-compliance with the terms of the contract. AMPTP is not making new media payment to writers or paying the agreed upon residuals for the on-line streaming of television shows.
Because I make my living in the film and television industry, these issues are near and dear to me. But beyond that, I believe that people should be treated fairly in the workplace and receive fair compensation for work performed. I have faith that these are values that most people share and would be willing to fight for. And, I believe that unions are there for a reason, to protect its members from being taken advantage of.
I believe that voting “YES” on the SAG strike authorization referendum will give SAG an advantage by creating a stronger base from which to approach AMPTP for a fair contract. For this, power in numbers count.
* BTW, I’ve invited AMPTP and SAG members and IA film crewmembers to join in the discussion here…let’s see who shows up.