Confirming what Vallywood! has said several times in the past, the demand for an increase in the DVD residuals paid to actors appears to be off the table in the SAG negotiations with the AMPTP. A letter from SAG President Alan Rosenberg issued today lists new media, force majeur, product placement, background actors’ issues and mileage as areas of concern for the SAG team. DVD residuals are not mentioned.
The letter is consistent with the unanimous resolution of the SAG National Board yesterday about the importance of the new media issue. That resolution also failed to mention DVD residuals. An email sent out to SAG members recently by SAG NED Doug Allen also mentioned only new media.
That will likely send a clear message that SAG is looking to settle the contract talks quickly if some compromise can be found on new media.
Of course, the Producers remain handcuffed by the earlier deals they struck with SAG’s sister unions and likely upset that SAG is still insistent on breaking the pattern put in place after the WGA 100 day strike.
The Producers issued a statement today taking issue with the argument that the current contract on offer does not provide union work in the new media environment. The sticking point is the possibility that online productions below a certain dollar threshold would require that SAG win a union election or that a union member be hired on the production to trigger SAG coverage.
Likely, the Producers’ concern is that below a certain dollar minimum they are competing with User Generated Content, or UGC, sites like YouTube that attract lucrative web traffic.
The dueling public statements suggest that the Producers feel they have not yet won the argument with the wider public and so are reluctant to declare an impasse and simply impose their most recent offer as they likely could do under U.S. labor law provisions.
This gives SAG a limited window of opportunity to make their case about new media as clearly and persuasively as possible to possibly win some provisions that improve on the deal gained by the other unions already.
Internally, however, the Rosenberg letter confirms a major defeat for the “go it alone/last in line” strategy of the Membership First party that first elected Rosenberg and hired NED Doug Allen. Improving DVD residuals has been a hot button issue for Membership First for many years.
With control of the national board of the Guild up for grabs in the upcoming elections, this concession will likely boost the argument of the new Hollywood-based Unite For Strength slate, backed by prominent actress Sally Field, that change in Guild strategy is required to meet the challenges of the new technological and corporate environment the Guild faces.
The mistake made by the Guild that led to the failed strategy seems rooted in the argument by Membership First hard liners like Justine Bateman that SAG’s fellow unions in the industry are part of the problem not the solution. Thus, the idea took hold among some in the Guild that the union would be better off going it alone without AFTRA in joint bargaining with the Guild.
However, this allowed the Producers to whipsaw the entertainment industry unions and they have carefully and effectively limited the damage that they might have otherwise suffered if the unions had been able to present a united front.
Membership First loyalists will likely begin, once again, the finger pointing at AFTRA or even at their own fellow union members who are also members of AFTRA. But they will be hard pressed to explain the failure of their bargaining team, which they control, to secure any significant gains compared to the other three unions.
The Membership First approach failed despite the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a controversial and unprecedented campaign against the ratification of the deal negotiated by AFTRA as well as the continuing dangerous delay in sealing the deal on a new contract for their own members. Meanwhile production has slowed at least in film and for the first time in SAG history, as far as I know, SAG members are working without the protection of a ratified union contract.
If capitalized on by the opposition and independent candidates in the election process now getting underway this clear failure by Membership First could lead to a new approach and strategy taking hold in the Guild.