The national board of the Guild voted 60-40 this weekend to prevent a debate about reform of the contract ratification process proposed by some 1,500 leading members of the Guild. The group behind the proposal was neither allowed to speak nor to see the issue voted on as apparently had been promised. Instead, the proposal was buried in a committee where it is not likely to see the light of day anytime soon. While I was not necessarily a supporter of the idea that had been proposed – that only members who are either vested or work a minimum period under a particular contract vote on whether to ratify it or not – I had hoped that the Guild would allow the issue to be openly debated. President Rosenberg openly campaigned against the idea instead of leading a fair and balanced debate.
This sets up an interesting dynamic now which demonstrates why this bureaucratic maneuver was so shortsighted. Membership First is in pretty much complete control of the negotiating committee and of the voting process on any contract proposal. Yet they have likely now alienated a substantial number of important working actors in Hollywood – the petitioners included Sally Field, Charlie Sheen and Amy Brennamen.
This is the very group MF has long argued that they more effectively represent now that they control the Guild. These alienated actors are far less likely now to back moves made by Membership First – like playing tough at the bargaining table or threatening a strike. By preventing debate on a measure that likely would still not have passed they instead have possibly weakened their hand on the eve of negotiations with the AMPTP.