Another weekend, another board meeting, another month quickly coming to a close without a deal between the Screen Actors Guild and Hollywood's television and film producers. That was the feeling when the guild's national board of directors rejected the "last, best, and final offer" from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Feb. 21.
The two sides resumed negotiations Feb. 17, but talks fell apart Feb. 19 when the producers insisted that any new contract run a full three years from the date of the deal's ratification. SAG, which had agreed to the AMPTP's template for work in new media, wanted the contract to date retroactively from July 1, 2008. That would have ensured that SAG's deal expired concurrently with those of other unions, particularly the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
"What management presented as a compromise is, in fact, an attempt to separate Screen Actors Guild from other industry unions," the SAG board stated in a news release after Saturday's meeting, where it rejected the producers' proposal by a vote of 73 percent to 27 percent. "By attempting to extend our contract expiration one year beyond the other entertainment unions, the AMPTP intends to de-leverage our bargaining position from this point forward."
The AMPTP countered with its own release: "The producers have always sought a full three-year deal with SAG, just as we negotiated with all the other unions and guilds, and have offered SAG a way to achieve an earlier expiration date without contributing to further labor uncertainty." The producers told SAG that its deal could expire early if the guild enters into early negotiations jointly with AFTRA and agrees to a new contract no later than June 30, 2011.
At least one SAG moderate was still angry Sunday at the producers' maneuvering. "Labor peace? Listen, bub, if that's what you're looking for, then that ain't it," said the board member, who requested anonymity. "This is antithetical to labor peace."
The Feb. 17–19 talks with producers were the first since SAG fired former national executive director Doug Allen and replaced him with interim national executive director David White and chief negotiator John T. McGuire. All the dissenting votes in Saturday's board meeting came from members affiliated with Membership First. According to a source, partisans of the Hollywood-based faction wanted the board to send a strike authorization vote to guild members and to condemn the producers' proposal more strongly. "We could have had this contract in April 2008," said the source, who requested anonymity.
Meanwhile, SAG and AFTRA renewed joint negotiations under Phase One on Feb. 23 when they began bargaining with advertisers and ad agencies on a new commercials contract. The unions have had a rocky relationship for much of the past decade, as self-described moderates have pushed for a merger of the unions while Membership First (as well as its predecessor, Performers Alliance) has bitterly opposed that move.
EQUITY, LORT AGREE: Actors' Equity Association reached agreement with the League of Resident Theatres on a tentative three-year contract Feb. 22, concluding weeks of negotiations. Details were not known as of press time, but Equity cardholders can find them at AEA.