If there was any last chance to break the “pattern” put in place by the defeated WGA strike and the DGA (where recall only modest gains were made in new media and DVD residuals were dropped altogether), it would have been a decision by AFTRA to refuse to start bargaining until SAG got a deal with the Producers.
But the blood is so bad now that AFTRA refused to delay their twice delayed negotiations and instead are now set to play the role of the DGA against its “siamese twin” union, SAG.
While some in Membership First will argue that this demonstrates the “sell out” nature of AFTRA, they have to come to grips with their own role in creating this unfortunate turn of events. They did not develop an argument or strategy that could provide unity and leadership for the entire industry during this turning point negotiating year. Instead, they turned on their own fellow unions (recall the attacks by Bateman and the Allens on the DGA deal) and have now dug themselves into a very deep hole.
The damage done this year will take a long time to repair, if it ever does. The industry is changing rapidly and the agreements in place now are unlikely to shape the future in a direction that does very much for either talent or below the line.
SAG President Alan Rosenberg’s explanation for the current impasse can be found here. Jonathan Handel at Digital Media Law has a useful summary of the current situation here.