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SAG Picks ATA Bargaining Unit

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The national board of the Screen Actors Guild has taken a significant step toward getting back to the bargaining table with the Association of Talent Agents to negotiate a new master labor agreement.

At the board meeting on Dec. 6, a new talent agents negotiating committee was configured, with third vp Tom LaGrua picked unanimously to chair the committee, which will be faced with the delicate task of authoring a new set of agency regulations.

Tess Harper will be vice chair of the committee. Representing Los Angeles on the panel will be Tom Bower, George Coe, Melissa Gilbert, Michael Monks, Armin Shimerman, and Scott Wilson. Their alternates will be Kent McCord, Mike Farrell, Peter Onoratti, and Esai Morales. From New York, Skip Hinnant, Eileen Henry, Jim Bracchitta, and Kim Sykes will serve, with alternates Skipp Sudduth and Maureen Donnelly. Steve Freed will represent the branches, and Eileen Parkinson will be his alternate. Recording secretary Elliott Gould will sit on the committee ex officio but will have no vote.

"This committee is absolutely more balanced than the previous one," said one board member who had complained that the previous panel did not fairly represent New York and the branches.

SAG and ATA have been at a standoff since talks broke off a year ago. The sticking point has been the ATA's most recent financial interest proposal, which would significantly change the SAG rules that govern talent agencies and, if approved, allow agencies to own or be owned by production and distribution companies, with multiple restrictions. SAG claims that loosening the financial restrictions inevitably would create a conflict of interest.

The new committee will meet on Dec. 17. No date has yet been set for a resumption of talks with the ATA. If no date is set before the committee meeting, the two sides will have only a month to come to a new agreement before expiration of the stipulation that both abide by rules of the previous contract. That short time frame poses a problem for SAG because any agreement would have to be approved by a membership referendum before ratification. A mail referendum is a laborious process that usually takes four weeks.

The American Federation of Television & Radio Artists has said it will hold its own set of meetings with the ATA next month.

Also decided on Dec. 6 was the makeup of SAG's Industrial Wages & Working Conditions Committee, to be chaired by Paul Napier. Other members include AngelTompkins, Russell McConnell, Jay Potter, Mike Hodge, and Sheri Lee Scott. SAG's industrial agreement expires on Apr. 20.

SAG's board also discussed at length the constitutional provisions implementing the new governance plan, adopted by the board in October, that will reduce the board from 107 to 71 members. Much of the discussion centered on whether the membership should have the power to directly elect members of the national executive committee, which will enjoy increased authority under the new plan. Any decision on the plan will be made at the board's next meeting.

In other news Gordon Drake was appointed to replace Michael Harrity, who resigned from the board. Harrity did not indicate a preferred replacement and declined comment on the reason for his departure.

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