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SAG Ballots Have Been Turned In

Decision expected soon in the nine-month battle over its expired TV and film contract.

One of Hollywood’s most engrossing soap operas is about to come to a close…maybe.

 

Ballots to ratify or reject SAG’s latest TV contract with the AMPTP covering film and TV were due at 5 p.m. Ballots were sent to 110,000 guild members on May 19.

 

A decision was expected to be announced later Tuesday night.

Although SAG and AFTRA members overwhelmingly approved a new contract covering commercials on May 22, the political and emotional battle over the TV/theatrical pact is boiling over.

 

At a SAG town-hall meeting in L.A. on May 21, Ed Asner, former guild president and a member of the national board’s minority faction known as Membership First, reportedly likened the contract’s effect on SAG members to “taking the Jews out and shooting them.”

SAG president Alan Rosenberg, whose 2005 election was backed by Membership First, has loudly denounced the contract. He recently told the L.A. Times that the contract’s provisions “are just going to kill actors.”

And the moderates who took control of SAG’s national board this fall under the name Unite For Strength are just plain weary of the fighting that has been raging inside the guild since the 2000 commercials strike.

“All I want to do is get this damn contract passed,” Sam Freed, SAG’s 2nd vice president and president of the New York board, told TheWrap.

Membership First and the guild, which promotes the moderate majority’s point of view, waged fierce campaigns to persuade the members’ votes. Both sides circulated online videos featuring A-list and working actors touting their party’s line.

In SAG’s corner, Hanks, Kate Walsh, Bruce Davison, J.K. Simmons, Corbin Bernsen, and dozens of rank-and-file Hollywood actors appeared in “vote yes” videos. Their consensus has been that the contract isn’t perfect, but as Hanks points out, “no contract ever is.”

But the two-year contract’s 3 percent wage increase and .5 percent increase in pension and health contributions will help assuage some financial burdens brought on by the ruined economy and runaway production.

As for new-media, the moderates contend the contract’s residuals give the guild a toehold in the medium that will be entertainment’s future, but studios are still making their big money on TV and in films.

 

In Membership First’s videos, Ed Harris, Martin Sheen, Rob Schneider, Elliott Gould, Charles Shaughnessy, Nichelle Nichols, Nancy Sinatra and others calling the contract “an attempt to destroy the union,” “the worst contract in 50 years” and a “death sentence.”

They argue that the contract endorses non-union work because it does not cover all made-for-Internet content, but only those that employ union workers and/or are budgeted over $15,000 per minute or $300,000 total.

 

They also argue that movies and shows made before 1974 will not receive residuals for Internet streaming and includes no provisions for product placement. They also caution that the guild will be stuck with this contract’s new residuals for a long time. The guild has yet to improve the paltry DVD residuals that were first contracted in the 1980s.

If SAG members vote down the contract, the guild’s leaders will be forced to ask the AMPTP to re-negotiate their “last, best and final offer.” If the studios refuse, SAG’s board would likely seek strike authorization from its members and possibly walk out.