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SAG members filibuster and nothing gets done ... just like Congress

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 14th 2009 4:30PM
SAG logoThe big SAG strike news hitting the trades and the rest of the entertainment press today is ... that there isn't any news. A strike vote ballot still hasn't been sent to the members. But, boy, what's gone into the non-news is a hell of a lot of effort. Reports are that the decision to delay the ballot came after an epic 30-hour meeting, eight of which was spent on debating whether to end the meeting at 10 pm on Monday or 1 am on Tuesday. Fat lot of good that did; the meeting didn't break up until 6 am.

Apparently, there are two factions within the union; a larger Hollywood-based one that wants a strike, and a smaller New-York-and-elsewhere based one that doesn't want the walkout. The debates were more a result of the disagreement within the union than purposeful delay tactics; heck, they even tried to remove their lead negotiator.

It looks like what's happening is that a small but significant number of SAG members realize that they can't win in this battle. Striking now, in a crashing economy and so soon after the writers' strike almost crippled the entertainment industry, would get the union nothing but extremely negative publicity. Considering they've been offered a similar deal to what the writers accepted last year, people will have little sympathy that the actors are asking for more, even if their reasons are justified. Add to that the fact that the other major actors' union, AFTRA, has accepted the AMPTP's deal and will make themselves available to fill some of the gaps a SAG strike would leave, and you've got the makings of a long and destructive strike for the folks at SAG.

As it is, it looks like the guild won't get their act together in time to affect the Oscars next month, which would have been a big bargaining chip for them. If I were to make a prediction, I'd say that a strike is never going to materialize. What do you folks think?

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What possible good reasoning do they have to demand better pay than the writers? Actors are extremely overpaid as it is.

January 15 2009 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Vito's comment

Or to put it another way, I can think of quite a few great movies and tv shows with terrible acting but great writing/directing. But if you see something with great acting and terrible writing, it still usually sucks.

January 15 2009 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A very few actors are extremely overpaid. The rest, the ones who make up 99.9% of the rest of SAG, usually don't make enough to live on. It's for these actors that the union is fighting; the concessions they want would have essentially no effect on the 0.1% at the top of the payscale (Will Smith, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, etc.), because their contracts have less to do with union wages than with whatever their agents can get for them. Below those rarefied heights, actors are basically interchangeable, as far as the AMPTP is concerned, and they'll take whatever they're offered. The union just wants to make sure that what the actors are being asked to do (now sometimes for free, because of holes in the contract) matches how they're being paid.

That said, I agree that this is a bad time for a strike.

January 15 2009 at 3:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wish they would just do it or get off the pot! I mean come on already!

My husband is out of work right now because no one wants to start a movie until they figure out what they are doing. Lets get it on!

January 15 2009 at 9:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The SAG leadership is a bunch of ineffectual bozos. You failed to mention that they filibustered the meeting in order to keep a vote on the negotiator's job from materializing. If that isn't shooting yourself in the foot, I don't know what is. It tells the big studios that you have NO influence within your own organization and have to resort to childish tactics a six-year-old would be embarrassed to use. They're pitiful.

January 14 2009 at 7:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If they kept on stalling until after May sweeps and somehow made I deal before Sep. I wouldn't mind too much :)

January 14 2009 at 5:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Andrew's comment

I have to assume you are being sarcastic. If you're not, then you are out of your mind. We are in a de facto strike right now. Hundreds of entertainment industry companies have already gone through layoffs, and have implemented shortened work weeks. If this doesn't get resolved quickly, these same companies will be letting a lot more people go in the coming weeks. This at a time when our economy is already in the hole. I personally think that the actors need a better deal. This is just the wrong time to do it.

January 14 2009 at 8:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jeff N.

If SAG did pull off a strike it would only hurt them for the exact reasons you stated in the article above. They should come back to earth accept the deal on the table and move on. I am sure it is not a perfect deal, but to strike right now would be a big diaster. You have to know when to pick your fights. And this is not the time.

January 14 2009 at 5:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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