UPDATED: 8:30 PM SAG Responds to AMPTP Challenge
Today’s talks are done and the Producers threw down a gauntlet to the Guild tonight challenging by name SAG’s Membership First directly for the first time (as far as I know). They called on the Guild to take their June 30 final offer to the Guild’s membership for a vote.
The AMPTP statement indicates that the Guild was not willing to budge on its demands to improve on the terms agreed to by the other 3 guilds.
The Hollywood Reporter says SAG thinks bargaining is continuing:
“We believe the bargaining is continuing,” Alan Rosenberg countered in a terse statement that reflected a diametrically opposed interpretation of the five-hour proceeding at the AMPTP headquarters.
“From the first day, we came here to bargain an agreement and we’ll continue the bargaining process until we get an agreement,” SAG’s chief negotiator Doug Allen added.
If the Guild refuses to submit the “final” offer to their membership for ratification this could be the evidence the AMPTP needs to declare an impasse and impose the terms of that offer. That would enable production to resume on films and ongoing TV productions to continue working but without a union contract in place. Labor law views this as negotiations “by other means,” if you will: it is a permissable use of employer leverage to try to restart good faith negotiations.
SAG could try to contest whether impasse has been reached – and their brief statement that bargaining is, in fact, continuing is an attempt to back that up – but it would take time to adjudicate that at the NLRB. Meanwhile production continues and SAG is in the very tough position of arguing, in a sense, that its members should not have to work under the terms of the “final” offer and yet work is available and since there is no strike there would be no picket line to block actors from such work.
Of course, many actors might be reluctant to accept work under such conditions and the Guild might be able to engage in informational campaigns that discourage actors from accepting work. However, protecting those actors from dismissal from projects or future retaliation might be difficult.
One alternative to the imposition of the new terms would be to just resume production under the existing contract’s terms although the contract itself has expired. As I have pointed out that would save the Producers some money and could avoid the negative political impact of being seen to impose terms unilaterally.
Meanwhile, AFTRA has a union contract in place and could offer producers the opportunity to engage in projects with legitimate union actors free of the competition it normally faces from SAG.
We are on unprecedented territory, folks, but one thing is clear this evening: the Producers do not intend to allow the Guild to drag out negotiations without consequence. SAG has yet to explain how it can wrest a better deal out of the AMPTP than the other three unions that have already negotiated contracts.