As I suggested a few days, back, SAG-AFTRA tensions are heating up. Now SAG’s leadership has tried a sit down with President Sweeney of the AFL-CIO to see if the conflicts over jurisdiction can be resolved. The problem here is in who is doing the asking – after criticizing the AFL for years the Membership First party now realizes it needs the help of the larger union federation. That may be difficult to come by – and it may be a bit like closing the proverbial barn door: after all, the AFL has already promised AFTRA its own seat on the top level Executive Council when in the past AFTRA had to share the 4 A’s’ seat with the Guild and Equity. And AFTRA is moving closer to the IA, which has always had a testy relationship with the Guild.
That suggests that the AFL’s view of this situation is to back AFTRA in the EMI sector because they cannot get along with the Membership First party. Of course, the AFL backed the merger between SAG and AFTRA which Membership First opposed successfully, and surprisingly, in a grass roots campaign. One possibility now: merge the IA with AFTRA and Equity and leave SAG out of the picture entirely, or, possibly, split SAG into east and west coast divisions. It would be messy and controversial, likely to spark lawsuits and other nasty side effects, and undermine the bargaining power of the Guilds as complex contract negotiations unfold.
The problem here for all parties is in thinking that the solution to the problems facing the guilds and unions in the EMI sector can be solved organizationally or bureaucratically. You can move the pieces on the chess board around all you want, but without an analysis of the changes underway in the industry that leads to a strategic plan linked to effective tactical responses, organized labor will have a very very tough road ahead in this environment. As a recent debate on The Artful Writer suggested in a recent critique of a New York Times flak piece for the studios, winning the hearts and minds is critical in this bargaining year. (“The New York Times Blows It”)
For the sake of organized labor in the industry, let’s hope that the SAG delegation comes back from Chicago with more than just pious phrases.
Oh, and by the way, I thought that the SAG had joined an AFL-CIO sponsored Industry Coordinating Committee (or ICC) which was contractually committed to resolving disputes between affiliates in the Arts, Entertainment and Media Industries. So why the need to sit down with President Sweeney?