As I had surmised was the case some months ago, SAG/AFTRA agreed this weekend to protect their employers’ multi-billion dollar cash cow, DVD revenue. Instead they opted for modest improvements in base salary and the pension and health care plans. But the studios no doubt breathed a sigh of relief as their multi-billion dollar cash cow was once again declared off limits from actors by their unions.
The deal comes seven months in advance of actual contract expiration and will likely be passed easily in light of recent victories for the moderate leadership slate now in control of the actors guild.
Now of course the major producers will have plenty of time to engineer their transition to the new media world with the cash actors have helped them protect for their executives and shareholders. Look for a slight pop up in stock prices for the parent companies next week.
The studios now clearly understand the Guild has no ability to, or serious interest in, confronting the dramatically changing technological and financial landscape of the 21st century entertainment industry.
As the Los Angeles Times noted SAG/AFTRA remains boxed in by more conservative unions such as the DGA:
“Both unions faced pressure to get a deal done before the Directors Guild of America started its negotiations. The DGA, which often is the first out of the gate on new contracts, has stated it intends to begin negotiations this month.”
This led to a major strategic choice: a narrow focus on health care and pension contributions as well as the adoption of a “low key” bargaining approach – which meant, of course, that creative job actions and a strike were off the table. The shift in tone was signaled by the selection of Guild staff leadership as the Times noted:
“Also boding for an early deal was new leadership at SAG, which is now controlled by a coalition of so-called moderates, won control the national board two years ago, fired former executive director Doug Allen and installed former general counsel David White in his place. White took a less confrontational approach in his dealings with the studios and adopted a low-key approach to the negotiations, avoiding public pronouncements about the unions’ demands.”
Of course if actors are in a less militant mood that fact owes a great deal to the mindless tactics of the prior leadership team led by the now defunct group, Membership First. SAG seems, sadly, caught in a see saw relationship that mimics our national political scene.
The Guild will now turn inward as it pushes ahead with merger with AFTRA. And in three years actors will realize they have once again left hundreds of millions on the table untouched by the working actor.