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A Sob for SAG

11 Dec, 2008 By: Kyra Kudick

Once upon a time, I belonged to a union. It was the summer after my freshman year of college, and to earn money for the following year, I took a job in a plant that manufactured items such as candy bar wrappers. The position was that of “utility worker,” which was a polite way of saying “dirty jobs” such as cleaning out dumpsters, driving fork trucks, cleaning the adhesive unit in the press (that’s uber sticky glue, coupled with sharp blades, cleaned with a solvent I am convinced we will discover causes cancer), and any number of other duties as assigned.

I worked a 12-hour swing shift, four days on and four days off. I remember it was a stifling hot summer and there was no air conditioning, so I spent the day drenched in my own sweat, covered with bits of glue, wearing safety goggles and steel-toed boots. It was very glamorous.

But it paid union wages (which allowed me another job-free college semester). And gave me a first-hand look at the important role unions have played in the history of manufacturing jobs (mandatory breaks, safety training and safety features on machines, etc.).

I say all this so you know I am not against unions in general — I am just beyond annoyed with SAG, specifically. Try as I might, I cannot muster any sympathy for the plight of the poor, poor actors. I even tried a little sense memory exercise to drum up a few tears, thinking of my past work experiences when perhaps I wasn’t treated as fairly as I thought I ought to be, and my response was visceral alright ... I was pissed.

Where exactly do actors get off thinking they deserve a better deal than the rest of the industry? Oh, sorry, I forgot, their needs are just “different.” And I bet they are. I mean their job is so terribly difficult. They have to pretend to be someone else in 5-minute increments — sometimes for a whole day (gasp). Someone else tells them what to say, dresses them, does their hair and makeup, and brings them the things they desire. Golly, that is rough. If they make a mistake they get a second chance, and a third, and a fourth and a fifth …

I’m not saying they aren’t talented or they shouldn’t be compensated. I am a genuine movie fan, and certainly movies aren’t possible without actors, but aren’t they paid enough already? Doesn’t their job come with enough perks?

And is their fight worth putting everyone else who works with them out on the street (for the second time in the past year) while they manhandle a few more dollars out of the studios?

I want to believe that SAG members don’t agree with their union leadership. I want to believe that actors are not completely self-centered and unaware of the current economic woes that burden the nation. I want to believe that when SAG leaders count the votes for a strike in January they get a big fat wake-up call to get real jobs — because their members are taking the deal offered and making sure the rest of the people in the industry keep theirs.

I really want to believe …

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