SAG/AFTRA merger details emerge – global solidarity rule to erode

SAG critics of merger with AFTRA appear to have been right about their concern that the merger deal being negotiated now behind closed doors by union leaders and staff would undermine longstanding SAG work rules.

Jonathan Handel at The Hollywood Reporter is reporting today that “Global Rule 1” will not be extended to the hundreds of AFTRA members who work in non-union shops like CNBC and CNN. Historically, SAG has insisted that its members not work in non-union shops but AFTRA, which SAG critics say is a weaker union, have never enforced that kind of across the board principle. To avoid appearing as if they are simply a labor association and not a real union, AFTRA calls such non-union work places “non jurisdictional.”

Of course, this is just semantics. AFTRA engages in this game to avoid violating its own “Rule One No Contract/No Work” concept which blocks union members from working for employers where AFTRA has “jurisdiction.”

AFTRA actually failed in a ten year effort to organize CNBC, for example, as Handel mentions. So clearly AFTRA considers CNBC part of its jurisdiction, as it should. But AFTRA members who continue to work there face no penalty and can freely accept either union or non-union work.

So AFTRA has not been able to organize important parts of the media industry and at the same time it has been unable or unwilling to require that its members avoid working in scab shops.

In stark contrast, SAG has often been aggressive in enforcing union solidarity. Perhaps the most visible example was the imposition of penalties on celebrities like Tiger Woods who crossed union picket lines during the 2000 commercials strike. It should be noted, however, that SAG’s rule applies to principal actors but apparently does not extend to background actors, a large group of the Guild’s membership that were absorbed into SAG when it took over the ailing Screen Extras Guild years ago.

Since it has already been widely reported that the SAG and AFTRA pension and health care plans will continue to operate independently after merger,  and now a key SAG solidarity principle will not be extended to AFTRA, it looks as if the strategy behind this merger is to actually do as little merging as possible in order to insure passage. That may also explain the rumoured lame proposed name for the new organization: “SAG-AFTRA.”

Key SAG Rule to Survive Merger (Exclusive) – The Hollywood Reporter.

5 thoughts on “SAG/AFTRA merger details emerge – global solidarity rule to erode”

  1. My late husband, Rory Calhoun, worked with a group called A.W.A.G. (Actors Working for an Actors’ Guild ) to prevent a merger between SAG and AFTRA in, I think, the 1980’s. At the time, Charlton Heston, a former President of the Guild, who was a force against the merger opined that the merger could not work because the pension and health plans could not be merged under any circumstances. The merger was put to a vote at that time and failed.

  2. I’m not sure what to make of Mr. Hillberg’s comment on the role of signatory paymasters. In fact, the use of such paymasters has made it possible for both AFTRA and SAG members to work under union contracts, particularly in the non-broadcast or corporate/educational realm where a good number of independent producers have clients whose budgets cannot always support union rates and who therefore do not want to be locked in, as direct signatories themselves, to using union talent on all of their productions. Without the signatory paymaster arrangement, this is work that these members would otherwise have to pass up if they honored Rule 1. Very little of it, in my opinion,would have much chance of being “organized” in a traditional way.

  3. You write that “it looks as if the strategy behind this merger is to actually do as little merging as possible in order to insure passage”.

    Exactly.

    The merger of SAG and AFTRA, into one U.S. union representing performers, in and of itself is a necessary detail to a sixteen year effort by the Motion Picture Association of America to achieve an international treaty that is as important to the MPAA as the passage of SOPA.

    The International Treaty on the Protection for Audiovisual Performances, which the Screen Actors Guild has for over a decade, outside the knowledge and authorization of its members, falsely claimed has the support of its members, will strip its members of the right of National Treatment, a right that inheres in the rights of citizens.

    SAG has renegotiated the illegal so-called “foreign levy agreement” with the AMPTP, which expired on December 31, an agreement which SAG claims gives it the right not to disburse foreign levies but to keep such monies for its own use while SAG and AFTRA continue to conceal that SAG is collecting these monies for AFTRA-covered audiovisual performances.

    The truth about the lie is that the primary purpose of the fictitious addendum – the so-called “foreign levy agreement” – to the Basic Agreement between SAG and the AMPTP is not the split of royalties flowing from performers rights in foreign countries but that it assigns a U.S. performer’s right under National Treatment to the Companies.

    With the settlement in Ken Osmond vs. SAG, SAG and AFTRA, the exclusive bargaining representatives of their respective members, scammed their members in an unprecedented unthinkable violation of the LMRDA in service to the content formerly known as copyright industries.

    The so-called “foreign levy program” is not, as the entertainment unions explained to the Court, separate from a union’s usual dealings with employers.

    Labor organizations don’t run businesses.

    When the Court was confronted with the fact that the DOL had found that foreign levies are union funds, it held the hearing on the motion to seal the financial history of foreign levies off the record.

    Those union records remain under seal but the judge has got the fuck out of Dodge.

    SAG Deputy National Executive Director and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland’s statement to the board that discussions in committee sessions at WIPO are confidential is being revealed to be a lie as the notes of the SCCR (Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights) are being disseminated to members of SAG, and soon the MPAA’s dream of an international treaty which is intended to provide increased protection for performers but which guarantees an increased level of protection for producers will die as all fetid dreams must.

  4. You write that “it looks as if the strategy behind this merger is to actually do as little merging as possible in order to insure passage.”

    Exactly.

    Passage of merger will leave no loose ends to a sixteen year effort by the Motion Picture Association of America to achieve an international treaty that is as important to the MPAA as the passage of SOPA.

    The International Treaty on the Protection for Audiovisual Performances, which the Screen Actors Guild has for over a decade, outside the knowledge and authorization of its members, falsely claimed has the support of U.S. Performers, will strip U.S. Performers of their National Treatment rights.

    With the settlement in Ken Osmond vs. SAG, SAG and AFTRA, the exclusive bargaining representatives of their respective members, scammed their members in an unprecedented unthinkable violation of the LMRDA in order that the content formerly known as copyright industries can achieve, after a seventeen year effort, the extinction of rights that are the rights of citizens.

    SAG has renegotiated the illegal so-called “Foreign Levy Agreement” with the AMPTP, which expired on December 31, an agreement which SAG claims gives it the right not to disburse foreign levies but to keep such monies for its own use while SAG and AFTRA conceal that SAG is collecting for AFTRA-covered audiovisual performances.

    The truth about the lie is that the primary purpose of the fictitious addendum to the Basic Agreement between SAG and the AMPTP – the so-called “Foreign Levy Agreement” – is not about providing the split of royalties flowing from performers rights in foreign countries but that it assigns a U.S. performer’s rights under National Treatment to the Companies.

    The so-called “Foreign Levy Program”, desipite the entertainment unions’ representations to the Court, is not a business that is separate from a union’s usual dealings with employers.

    Labor organizations don’t run businesses.

    When the Court in Ken Osmond vs. SAG was confronted with the fact that the DOL had found that foreign levies are union funds, it held the hearing on the motion to seal the financial history of foreign levies off the record.

    Those union records remain under seal but the judge has got the fuck out of Dodge.

    SAG Deputy National Executive Director and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland’s statement to the board that discussions in committee sessions at WIPO are confidential is being revealed to be a lie as the notes of the SCCR (Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights) are being disseminated to members of SAG, and soon the MPAA’s dream of an international treaty which is intended to provide increased protection for performers but which guarantees an increased level of protection for producers will die as all fetid dreams must.

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