Screen Actors Guild members split over strike vote

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The Screen Actors Guild is having its 120,000 members vote in January on whether they’ll strike. The reason they’re striking is similar to the writers’ strike last year – members feel they should get more compensation for internet broadcasts. In this case there appears to be clear dissent among members as whether they should strike.

More than 130 Hollywood stars including Oscar winners George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Charlize Theron, Morgan Freeman and Sally Field, joined on Monday in opposing a strike authorization vote by the Screen Actors Guild.

The A-list performers registered their opposition in a letter that circulated on the Internet as union leaders, including SAG President Alan Rosenberg, met in New York City with rank-and-file members to seek support for a strike authorization.

The letter marked the latest sign of sharp divisions within the 120,000-member union over tactics employed by Rosenberg and his allies to squeeze a better contract offer from major studios, especially for pay from work put on the Internet.

A smaller group of stars including Mel Gibson and Martin Sheen on Friday voiced support for a strike vote, while board members from SAG’s New York division came out against it.

[From Reuters]

A-list, even B-list actors are less likely to be affected by the poor contracts given to actors who are working for productions that are broadcast over the Internet. But the actors who oppose the strike vote have a very clearly directed opposition to the “threat” of a strike used as a tool to get the studios to negotiate.

“We feel very strongly that SAG members should not vote to authorize a strike at this time,” Monday’s letter stated. “We don’t think that an authorization can be looked at as merely a bargaining tool. It must be looked at as what it is — an agreement to strike if negotiations fail.”

Citing worsening economic conditions, the letter urged SAG leaders to accept as “an imperfect agreement” the studios’ latest contract proposal and to join with other Hollywood unions three years from now in pressing for better terms then.

The industry is still recovering from a 14-week strike by screenwriters that ended in February, after idling thousands of production workers and costing the local economy an estimated $3 billion.

The letter, addressed to SAG board members, officers and staff, was signed by 134 prominent film and television actors, including numerous Oscar winners and nominees.

On Friday, the governing board of SAG’s New York branch also issued a statement urging the union’s national leadership to call off its strike authorization vote, saying widespread layoffs and cutbacks had altered the labor landscape.

[From Reuters]

A strike at this point in the economy could devastate actors who are already struggling. Where the reasoning is just as valid as the screenwriter’s strike in early 2008, now is just not the economic climate to be demanding more money and potentially putting thousands of working actors on the unemployment rosters. A person should get paid fairly for the work they do, but there are precious few people who would give up a paycheck in exchange for negotiations that may or may not succeed in getting them a few extra dollars later.

Some of the actors supporting a strike are Mel Gibson, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter and Martin Sheen, as well as SAG President Alan Rosenberg.

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15 Responses to “Screen Actors Guild members split over strike vote”

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  1. Nouvel says:

    Gibson is a douche.

  2. elisha says:

    I’ll cross that picket line!! Put ME on TV/the internet/in movies!!!! I’ll do it for free!

    Not really, but you get my point.

    There are tons of people who are trying to make it in Hollywood. There are also tons of people who don’t have jobs right now. A stike seems pretty insulting in this economy, WTG to the actors voting against it.

  3. Syko says:

    In this economy, I think we have to look at crappy jobs as OUR crappy jobs and do what we can to hold onto them.

    I was a little ticked off yesterday to learn that our “early Christmas Eve closing” is going to be at 4:30 when everyone else in the entire world will get off at noon – but I’m working and my job is reasonably secure. You have to put up with the indignities to stay employed, because there just are not that many unfilled jobs out there. Striking would be dumb.

  4. geronimo says:

    Don’t know too much about the finer points of this but the famous names on either side only constitute a tiny % of the SAG membership and, sitting pretty as most of the former are, they should butt out and stop acting as if they’re speaking for the latter, the majority membership which constitutes the basic wage earners and the ones with the most to lose here.

    IMO, the most intelligent and brave voice on this is actor, Peter Coyote – this was his plea to lead actors earlier this year:

  5. meow mix says:

    Hello…Mr. Gibson? It’s crazy calling.

    That look in his eye is completely f**king scary.

  6. Phat girl says:

    Thanks for the link geronimo, I really liked what Mr. Coyote had to say. As long as top dog actors are refusing to do movies for less than a kazillion dollars than it will be their co-actors that take the cut in pay. Why not let a leading man/woman say I won’t do the film uless all the actors are paid a decent wage like me. But hey, that would show a lack of selfishness and actors are not exactly known for that.

  7. geronimo says:

    @Phat girl – it’s a great letter, isn’t it? The bit that really hit home to me was this:

    “By the time they’re earning 15-20M, some measurable % of those earnings is meaningless. A major star on a film we were doing together once told me, “Hey there’s no difference between 17 and 18M to me! My agent tells me so-and-so gets it and so should I.”

  8. Ron says:

    As a member of SAG, I understand what this is all about. Unless you are a big name actor and get it written into your contract, you get nothing for internet use, DVD sales(which is the largest source of revenues for the studios btw), streaming anything. Nothing. What the Guild wants, and I think is fair, is residual payment on subsequent use (reruns). If it airs on broadcast TV, they have to pay residual rerun fees. The producers also want to take away protections for actors if productions suddenly close etc, that have been in the contracts since 1937. So the actors have legitimate beefs. We have been working withour a contract since June. It’s not easy to make a living as an actor!! Remeber very few actors make over 30,000 a year. And comparing a journeyman actor to a star is like comparing a factory worker to a CEO. That being said, this is the WRONG TIME for a strike, in my opinion. With this economy, people cannot affrod to be out of a job. And by people I mean the craft services lady, the costumers, lighting, gaffers etc etc. If a long strike would take place like with the writers, it would build so much ill will in the community towards actors it would be terrible. If we sign the current piece of crap contract, it would only have 2.5 years left on it and we could renegotiate then. Actors need SAG, it protects us from being taken advantge by huge conglomerate corporations and if you are SAG, you are more respected as being professional here in LA.

    Stepping off soap box now…..

  9. neelyo says:

    Jesus, Mel Gibson’s face is the best argument against drinking ever. One look at that picture and a shot of him in THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY would be enough to scare anyone away from the bottle.

  10. kate says:

    mel looks like he just stepped out of the loony bin. yikes!

  11. marie says:

    I’m not surprised at Clooney at all. What a terrific example of his character. For someone working in the film industry (not as an actor) I am scared shitless about a strike. I’ll end up on unemployment and probably homeless. The writers strike fucked us all hard enough to last for years! Gibson is greedy. Bottom line. I understand that there are certain things that need to be worked out- but a strike, right now, is definitely NOT the answer.

  12. vdantev says:

    WAH !! We Millionaires want MORE MONEY !! WAH !!!

  13. Ron says:

    Hey Dante–normally I dig your comments, but the union contract is really not about the stars. They negotiate separate contracts when they are making millions that include certain protections and residuals. Ordinary actors who play their secretary or the waitress don;t have that luxury and may only work a few weeks a year. They are the ones who need the things presented in the contract. Not Julia Roberts. That being said, I don;t think it’s the right time to strike, as I said before.

    stepping off the soapbox again…

  14. Jinxy says:

    Many of the people behind the scenes lost so much with the writers strike, it’s not only actors who get crushed by a strike,it’s the sound guys, camera, drivers, clerical, etc… who don’t have jobs anymore. Everything stops and money runs out very quickly… Everyone will lose. SAG can take another run at it in 3 years, and by that time they will have even more concrete numbers to use during negotiations. Is it fair the studios are cleaning up and don’t want to share? NO. Online content is only going to get bigger, but what good is it if so many of the talented behind the scenes people lives are severely impacted, if not ruined financially?

    Imagine getting laid off over and over again. You can’t survive these strikes if they keep happening.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I think anybody that can afford a house literally 17 times as big as my own on the salary they’re getting now, shouldn’t be able to make even more. Leave some for the rest of us, why don’t you.