Handel’s “Inside Look at SAG/AFTRA Negotiations” – how the firewall around studio cash cow was built

biggest-loser-pickets-2THR reporter/lawyer Jonathan Handel confirms that DVDs and downloads did not even make it to the bargaining table in the recent negotiations between SAG/AFTRA and the studios.

No wonder, as he writes, that a “major concession” by the Guilds was the sacrifice of first class air travel (in favor of business class). Relative to a change in the revenue sharing formulas for DVD/downloads, of course, this is small beer. That the studios wanted this in order to contribute slightly more to the actors’ pension plan (money that can, of course, disappear  in the financial markets in an instant) indicates the relative irrelevance of this bargaining round.

And equally interesting is Handel’s reporting that wage increases and new media were not the tough points of the negotiations, again indicating that the real revenues earned by the studios were not really threatened by the guilds.

Handel also confirms that because the more conservative DGA’s bargaining with the Producers was to follow right after SAG/AFTRA put pressure on the actors – again mimicking the problem encountered by Membership First under Alan Rosenberg when the DGA was used to pressure the WGA and SAG/AFTRA into relatively unpopular deals in the last contract round.

The relative weakness of SAG/AFTRA staff leadership was confirmed as well with Handel reporting that the actors relied heavily on their long time New York based guru (sorry, “monk”), consultant John Maguire. Maguire was brought in alongside former studio-side lawyer and SAG general counsel David White to lead the Guild when the so-called moderate faction took over the guild nearly two years ago. This may be Maguire’s swan song as he is not likely to be in the same role in three years time after 40 years with the Guild in one role or another. (Perhaps by then new NED David White will have gained the confidence and experience to cut his own 2% deals assuming he survives the “synergies” that SAG and AFTRA no doubt promise will follow merger.)

Predictably, both sides claim the bargaining was tough, even “perilous” at times with, believe it or not, the union engaged in “a fight for every inch of land.”

Of course, if that were really the case, the union should have been fighting over the revenues that really mean something to their employers – like DVDs and downloads – rather than those that could be dealt with six months before the contract was even up for expiration. It is ironic that SAG, which once dominated the industry labor scene, has now adopted the “go along to get along” early bargaining strategy of long maligned IATSE.

Meanwhile, speaking of IATSE, pictured above is that union allowing scabs to take their jobs on reality show Biggest Loser.

Inside Look: SAG/AFTRA Negotiations Almost Unraveled at ‘Perilous Moments’ – The Hollywood Reporter.