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SAG VP Seeks Strike Vote

By Erik Gruenwedel | Posted: 06 Mar 2009

The vice president of the Screen Actors Guild has questioned why the union has not sent out ballots seeking authorization for a strike against the studios and television networks.

In an e-mail March 4, Anne-Marie Johnson, who is a member of a faction within SAG opposed to ratifying the current contract offer from the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the union representing Hollywood studios, said ongoing inaction by the SAG board imperiled working out a favorable deal in light of the recession.

“If not the SAV [strike authorization vote], why not send out the LBF (studios’ ‘last, best offer’ for approval)?” Johnson said. “What are we waiting for? In my opinion the deal is not going to improve.”

Johnson, who has been officially barred by the board from publicly representing SAG, said the e-mail was her own opinion.

The VP, along with SAG president Allen Rosenberg and others, last month unsuccessfully sought to legally reinstate former chief negotiator Doug Allen, who had been fired.

At issue are actors seeking greater compensation from Internet distribution, in addition to revamping the 20-year-old home video residual agreement, which the studios have steadfastly refused to address. The agreement originally applied to VHS, but the subsequent arrival of DVD and Blu-ray made potential residuals a more lucrative prospect.

In addition to increased minimums, pension and health-care provisions, studios are offering jurisdiction on new-media programs, in addition to first-ever residuals on ad-supported streams of movies, TV shows, permanent downloads (burn-to-disc), original and derivative new-media programs.

On Feb. 17 a new negotiating task force under the leadership of newly appointed chief negotiator John McGuire resumed negotiations with the AMPTP. After three days of talks, the AMPTP presented its LBF offer, which was found unacceptable by McGuire and the task force.

SAG’s national board Feb. 21 voted to officially reject the studios’ offer.

Johnson argued that following the vote by the board to reject the labor contract, it has done little to move to the next step in the negotations.

“And once again, the majority of the board has denied SAG members the right to vote,” Johnson wrote.

Actors have been working under an interim agreement following the expiration of the previous deal June 30, 2008.

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