The advertising industry gave its thumbs up to the contract extension agreed recently with the Actors Guild and AFTRA. Previsously, the unions reported more than a 90% yes vote on very low turnout.
Of course, the real news here is that the Actors Guild president, Alan Rosenberg, may have won the battle but lost the war. As Vallywood readers know from previous posts, Rosenberg went ballistic when Guild member and former Vice President Laird Stuart circulated an email criticizing the contract extension. That, in turn, angered the core group in the Guild that helped elect Rosenberg in the first place. And they took their revenge recently by ousting Rosenberg’s key ally in the leadership, 1st National VP Anne-Marie Johnson, a respected and experienced trade unionist, replacing her with Kent McCord, another long time Guild activist who is a key figure in the Membership First faction of the Guild. Guild’s Johnson ousted in surprise vote.
The loss of Johnson will likely be keenly felt inside the Guild. While McCord is an experienced Guild activist, he is also part of a group within the Guild that has been more suspicious of the Guild’s ties to the to the wider labor movement and yet, at the same time, more singlemindedly militant about defending certain goals. Will he be able to forge a working relationship with Guild moderates like Paul Christie in New York much less with his own President in Hollywood, Alan Rosenberg? Rosenberg likely now regrets not only his intemperate email slamming Laird Stuart’s criticism of the contract extension but the narrow vote of the Guild board that prevented the circulation of Stuart’s email as well.
After all, if the email had in fact been sent to all Guild members as a kind of dissenting opinion, what would have been the impact? Given the overwhelming yes vote on the contract, it might have caused perhaps no more than 15% or so of the membership to vote no. The contract would have still been agreed to, but the employers would know that the membership was not just going to rubber stamp the proposal. A lively membership is a very useful ally when it comes to negotiating improvements at the bargaining table. And as the complex industrial picture now facing EMI unions evolves the contract negotiations for master agreements in 2007 (Writers) and 2008 (Actors) loom ever larger.