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SAG Moves towards Joint Bargaining with AFTRA

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The SAG National Board yesterday passed a resolution, by a surprising 82% to 18% vote, directing the guild's president and National Executive Director to "seek engagement with AFTRA in a joint bargaining agreement for negotiation of the Television/Theatrical Contract," as quoted in a SAG press release. This move is as I predicted in a blog post three weeks ago, based on conversations then with a confidential source.

Those negotiations, scheduled for October 1 - November 15 of this year, would take place "under the terms of Phase One, modeled on the agreement used successfully in the 2009 Commercials Contract negotiations," per the resolution. Phase One is the 1981 agreement between the two unions under which they have jointly bargained with the studios for almost three decades, with the notable exception of 2007-2009.

The margin was unexpected, since the board is almost evenly divided between factions that support joint bargaining (Unite for Strength and an independent in Los Angeles, and most or all members of the New York and regional boards) and a group (Membership First) that has generally expressed bitter opposition to joint bargaining under Phase One, a framework that gives SAG and AFTRA equal weight on the negotiating committee. (Because of the lateness of the hour, it was not possible to explore this issue with sources, and a call to a SAG spokesperson was not immediately returned.)

The resolution also directs the President, Ken Howard, and National Executive Director, David White, to "bring a recommendation to the National Board at the earliest opportunity." The urgency presumably stems in part from the fact that AFTRA's next national board meeting is February 27 meeting, and more generally from the constraints created by the October 1 date and the various processes leading up to it, as I have previously discussed. The TV/theatrical contract doesn't expire until June 30, 2011, but the agreement reached last year between the studios and SAG mandates early bargaining, specifically, from October 1 through November 15.

The SAG press release is below.

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SAG National Board of Directors Meets via Videoconference in Los Angeles and New York

Los Angeles, (January 31, 2010) - Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors voted today to seek engagement with AFTRA in a joint bargaining agreement for negotiation of the Television/Theatrical Contract. Approved 82 to 18 percent, the resolution states:

"It was moved and seconded that in light of SAG's historically productive negotiating partnership with AFTRA, the SAG National Board of Directors directs President Ken Howard and National Executive Director David White to seek engagement with AFTRA in a joint bargaining agreement for negotiation of the Television/Theatrical Contract, under the terms of Phase One, modeled on the agreement used successfully in the 2009 Commercials Contract negotiations. President Howard and NED White shall bring a recommendation to the National Board at the earliest opportunity."

Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard said, "I am very pleased with the vote and thank the Board for their leadership and foresight on this important issue. I so appreciate the Board's cooperative spirit in this discussion and throughout the day, and feel confident that our Guild is moving in the right direction."

In other actions, the National Board voted unanimously to create a National Performance Capture Committee to address the unique concerns and experiences of members who render performances that are recorded using "performance capture" technology across all media, and to advise the Guild on all matters pertaining to work in this rapidly growing area.

The board also approved 83 percent to 17 percent the unanimous recommendation of the finance committee to authorize the extension of existing initiation fee reductions in targeted markets across the country and to have the Guild's Joint Strategic Planning and Finance Committee review the initiation fee structure nationwide.

Reports
The national board received reports from elected leadership and staff including:

• President Howard memorialized those members who have passed away over the last year reading each name aloud and calling for a moment of silent remembrance. Howard also recognized the recent loss of former Houston Branch President and board member Jim Huston, who passed away January 28, 2010.

Mary McDonald-Lewis, Regional Branch Division board member from Portland, Oregon, delivered a special tribute to Huston, saying, "He stood with his brothers and sisters through the best of times and the worst of times, and did so with resolve."

• Secretary-Treasurer Amy Aquino delivered a report on the Guild's second quarter financial results noting that SAG's revenue and expenses are closely tracking the projections for fiscal year 2010. Aquino also provided an update on investment performance indicating recoupment of certain losses in the Guild's investment portfolio when compared to the prior year.

• National Executive Director David White reported on the strategic planning efforts underway at the Guild and preparation for negotiations. White updated the board on new institutional and member service initiatives including a revitalized organizing strategy and program. White applauded SAG committee members and staff for their innovative and thoughtful work in key areas including the 2010 SAG Awards, government relations and legislative activities, new media outreach activities, and the LifeRaft Live Streaming partnership with SAG Foundation, among other efforts.

The Board also appointed Deputy National Executive Director of Contracts Ray Rodriguez to the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Industry Advancement & Cooperative Fund (IACF) board and addressed a number of governance matters, including a constitutional amendment regarding written assent procedures; an amendment to Branch rules of procedure; advisory recommendations from the annual national membership meeting; amendments to the election guidelines; and a recommendation to study the feasibility of electronic voting.

The meeting adjourned just after 5:00 p.m. PST.