Now that some of the Guild’s most prominent figures have weighed in, the real balance of power inside SAG is more clear. There is nothing like the appetite for a walkout that SAG would need to make a strike threat credible in bargaining.
This should not come as a huge surprise. All along the signs have been there.
First, there was the fact that actors, in one sense, DID strike. Guild members walked the picket lines side by side, day after day, with the Writers late last year and into the early weeks of this year – 100 days in all. No one in the WGA or SAG was completely satisfied with the terms agreed to, but with SAG leaders more interested in attacking the DGA and then AFTRA it was clear that this was the best that could be done under the circumstances.
Second, while SAG’s Membership First leaders insisted on their “go it alone” strategy they actually drained away any remaining leverage they had to achieve the goals that had gotten them elected. DVD’s disappeared early in the bargaining and they fell back on making a religious principle out of incremental gains in new media. This signaled weakness to the AMPTP not strength and so the Producers were easily able to stonewall throughout the summer and fall.
Third, at each step, the members clearly voted with their feet. There were silly attempts to bolster attendance figures at various events when, in fact, at the key non-public meetings fear and uncertainty prevailed. When challenged, a defensive leadership and staff bullied and obfuscated.
These are signs of an organization that no longer has (if it ever had) effective leadership. And thus of an organization that cannot achieve its goals easily if at all. Leadership is not about charisma, or rhetoric, or a faux toughness. It is about an effective analysis of the strategic terrain, an assessment of the available resources and the design and implementation of a strategy to use those resources on that terrain in pursuit of an organization’s goals.
So, now what?
The Guild is in crisis and yet that represents a unique opportunity. SAG must convene an emergency strategy session with representatives of the major factions including representatives from the A List Signatories. This should not be an attempt to ferret out “subversives,” but a realistic assessment of terrain, resources and strategy. It must measure what can be done in the near term against what might be achieved by a change in strategic direction in the longer term.
Out of that discussion there are numerous possibilities. The key is that the hard work begin as soon as possible.