Thursday, May 01, 2008

Oncoming Train Wreck?

Somebody down below asked: "What's with the SAG negotiations?"

They're going pretty much nowhere, is what they're doing:

... [T]he negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild and the AMPTP are not making any progress with both sides very far apart and very frustrated. Negotiators for the Hollywood CEOs are privately making it clear they plan to make a deal first with AFTRA in order to use that as a wedge to soften up SAG. And, get this -- my sources tell me that the AMPTP is now prepared to wait out SAG for a deal until as late as mid-July. Which means the Big Media moguls are virtually daring SAG to strike when its contract expires the end of June.

Hmm. What a shock ...


... [D]on't anybody kid themselves. SAG starts negotiations with the AMPTP in mid-April; two weeks later, AFTRA gets its turn at the Alliance's shiny new headquarters in the Sherman Oaks Galleria. What happens if SAG still has issues when its alloted time runs out?

I'll tell you. The AMPTP will smile and say, "So sorry, but we have to go talk to AFTRA now, catch you later." And then the Alliance of Motion Picture and Teleivsion Producers will negotiate with AFTRA, and most likely reach an agreement with AFTRA.

And SAG, despite any screams and wails that "they can't live with!!" Provision D or Provision F, will have to live with them, because the DGA, WGA, IATSE, and AFTRA will have already gone before them, and (by then) the mold (made of high-strength stainless steel) will have been set. And SAG -- like it or not -- will get the same party platter as everyone else.

The AMPTP, you see, has set up a squeeze play. SAG can strike, but SAG will be undercut by the cold reality that every other labor organization is on board with the basic deal. And the Alliance will be uninterested in changing it in any significant way for the Screen Actors Guild ...

SAG, once upon a time, had an opportunity to dodge all this. Happened several years ago. SAG could have merged with AFTRA, and today it would be negotiating as One Big Union, with more power and leverage. There are some SAG members that get this now. I ran across one of them some weeks ago at one of our fine, major studios. When I brought up how stupid it was that SAG hadn't merged with AFTRA, he grimaced.

"Yeah, you're right. I'm one of those people who voted against merging. How stupid was that?"

There's an easy, one-word answer: Very.

Because it isn't about how just and noble your Cause is. All that matter is, do you have the juice to make the other side accept the Cause and label it "wonderful," even when the other side hates it?

The only power SAG has is to get approximately the same deal that every other union has thus far gotten (and the IATSE will soon get). Because the congloms won't move the goal posts for the Screen Actors Guild, no matter how long SAG marches around the football field with picket signs.

I only hope an actors' strike, if it comes, is mercifully short. Enough workers in this town have suffered enough.


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