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SAG Strikes Out

Posted on Dec 22, 2008
AP file photo / Reed Saxon

Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg, right, joins Writers Guild of America President Patric Verrone during the recent writers strike.

By Mike Farrell

(Page 2)

However, with the AMPTP sticking with its “final offer” and the same SAG negotiating team unwilling to move on anything, including the DVD increase, the mediator made a stab, failed, saw the light and quickly headed back to Washington.

So now they want a strike.

A strike when AFTRA, with a contract, is putting its members to work.

A strike when TV shows are already moving to sign with AFTRA.

A strike that will put the few casts and crews now working on SAG projects out on the street with millions of other Americans.

A strike that, by stopping production in the middle of a collapsing economy, would condemn SAG, already a laughingstock, to the halls of infamy.

Why would they even think of a strike?

Could it be because winning that vote, no matter how devastating a strike would be, is the only way they can save face, the only way they can salvage the pretense that they actually knew what they were doing all along?

It appears that we’re now going to be paying for another “education campaign,” this time one that will explain how important it is that this strike vote succeed. Given recent American history, I figure it’ll probably have something to do with the threat from hidden weapons of mass destruction. And I’m sure there will be the admonition that “you’re either with us or with the terrorist AMPTP.”

Well, I, for one, am not anti-union. God knows, as a member for over 40 years, I’m not anti-SAG. But I am anti-idiocy.

I’m voting no.

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By KDelphi, December 31, 2008 at 1:32 pm Link to this comment

unidentified—I agree..I know little about SAG. But, I am very tired of union-bashing, and, what seems to be the “war on the blue collar class” by the Democrats.

They only seem to back unions during election season, and, spend alot of time on the trail bashing the average person. If they dont watch it, they will just be neo-(not very)liberals, similar to the GOP neo-conservatives. They will share their fate.

Just because you are poor, doesnt mean that you are stupid, uneducated, or, anything else.

People in the heartland are very tired of being forced to pay for rich peoples’ blunders. So perhaps, I was angry about another issue, actually…


(not you personally)

Thanks for reply

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By unidentifiedman, December 30, 2008 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

kdelphi, I agree that tv is on the wane. the prime demographic, males, 12-34, has largely tuned out. they are gaming and surfing these days. perhaps I should have said that the WGA strike accelerated this process. like when the OJ trial interrupted the soap opera schedule and one third of the audience never returned. whatever momentum those shows had, was gone and a slow process had sped up.
I am a member of a union, my third. I have only worked for five of my 40 working years without a union. it is because I want strong unions that I want smart unions and SAG calling a strike now would be stupid.
finally, SAG and the UAW really don’t have much in common except the possibility of a disastrous stretch ahead which could doom the unions themselves. I pray this will not happen, but if SAG were to strike, it would be death by self-inflicted wound.

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By KDelphi, December 27, 2008 at 11:22 am Link to this comment

unitendifiedman—I would disagree, unless you can provide me with some stats to show otherwise.(ie network tv) To think that people turned away from network televison, because of the strike, may be satisfying. I just dont think that it is true. It was headed in that direction.
(On Union workers dependent on Big Three)

No, what the UAW needs to do is TAKE OVER the Big Three!! They ceratinly cant do any worse with it than the co-called Titans of Industry have done! Why should workers, whose production is at an all time high, have to suffer for dumbass decisions made by corporate executives?
(On “making demands is often suicidal”):

And not making demans is often cowardice. Unions with no backbone are part of what make the uS such a country of haves and have nots. The govt in the uS, also offers no social safety net, as they do in more advanced countries. When US businesses are thriving, it is very seldom that the “benefit” flows down to the workers.

There is not a first class, advanced, free country today, that got there without collective action. I dont know much about the SAG, but, I do know the differences in lives, benefits, pay, lifestyle, etc, between a people who are unionized (where unions are strong and respected) and where yoyo (youre on your own). Here in the uS, yoyo has produced the 80 hour workweek, (no overtime), dried up retirement funds, sweatshop conditions, no health care, little sick time, no child care, etc.

The Right has done a great job of convincing peopple that Unions are not necessary anymore. The fact that US Unions are weak, is not cause to stop utilizing them. We need to strengthen them, empower them.Give them over to lineworkers.Creative artists. They “flounder” because the people who make the big decisions are so far removed from the product of the labor. Plus, they (the CEOs) get rewarded, no matter what.

I read back over my first post, and, your post. Are we even talking about the sam e thing?? If capitalism is the problem, the solution is not to admit defeat, and, accept that a huge part of our citizenry will always live below the poverty line. With all the gazzillionaires we have here (and created here) the necessities of life should be available to everyone.

Capitalism doesnt work. If it did before, it doesnt work in the present form, in the US. If you want capitalism, (I dont), reform it before workers will take no more and strangle it in a bathtub, (as Bush would say)

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By unidentifiedman, December 26, 2008 at 10:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

kdelphi, I wrote that the WGA strike was a disaster, not the last SAG strike, but now that you mention it, the last SAG strike, which was against commercial producers was also a disaster. that business never recovered and nowadays there are far fewer commercial assignments for fewer actors. as to why the WGA strike was an abject failure—it shut the business down for months driving many viewers away from scripted television. they have not returned. the networks are in trouble and turning to less expensive programming. internet revenues have not and will not (for a long time), make up the difference in rates, much less the enormous losses caused by the strike.
as to the UAW, they are actually a labor union. auto workers do not have agents. no members of the UAW make lucrative above the line deals. and they are stuck with the simple, painful truth that their livelihoods are inextricably linked to the health of the big three. if the companies fail, as they are now doing, the union fails, too. they have to give back in the current economic environment and hope to fight another day.
the WGA strike seriously injured the television business. residuals are critical to the health of the unions. a SAG strike will hurt the business, and a FAILED SAG strike will weaken SAG and the labor movement.
making demands is not always the smart move. sometimes it’s suicide.

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By KDelphi, December 26, 2008 at 8:30 pm Link to this comment

mmadden—You could hardly be more incorrect. One reason that foreign auto companies are “more competitive” is that 1)if they are located in developed countries, the govt provides health insurance, pensions, etc. (in the US , health care accounts for 1/3 of the cost of a car) 2)It is cheaper to live in some of these countires (or Alabama), so they can accept lower wages. Some are just sweatshops, and, shouldnt be backed by uS Unions 3)Every civilized country in the world has far stronger union s than the uS, a sturdier, larger middle class, and, can easier withstand an economic downturn as a result. 4)The auto co. execs sold out to the arab countries and oil states to not come up with a more ecological car 5)they have better, cleaner, safer, more numerous forms of public transportati in other countries.

The CEOS makes the decisions. The auto industry should be handed over to someone who only “wins” if the corp makes a profit—like the workers.

If we cease to have unions, we wil cease to have a mddle class (if we have not already), Without a middle class, you will have Dubya’s have and have-morea and serfs. Which would you be?

The reason few have the same job or career all of their lives, in the uS, is one aspect of weak unions and the great job of union-bashing that the Far Right has done. For you , they would say, “Bravo! Americans are so pliable—it is so easy to get them to work against their own best interests)

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By Daniel Hugh Kelly, December 26, 2008 at 6:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have always admired Mr. Farrell’s progressive philosophy, but respectfully disagree with his analysis of the current situation.  I believe him to be wrong in his interpretation of the SAG leadership’s actions and motives.  And while I would prefer there be no missteps whatsoever by any of my unions, I understand that to be an unrealistic expectation, especially in light of the many voices, counsels and regions that comprise the Screen Actors Guild.

As a 30+ year member of both SAG and AFTRA, and having recently needed to obtain serious medical care for a family member, I was stunned by the disparity of coverage offered by each union. After some research, I was just as stunned by the differences in each union’s pensions.  Additionally, after 20 years, I am still waiting for the “experiment” of home video, DVD technology and its corresponding ridiculously low residuals to end.  After 20 years, I am still waiting for the cable tv “experiment” to end.  In 2008, I do not believe the AMPTP when they say that new media represents yet another “experiment” which will be revisited when the time is right and more information gained.  And although I walked the picket lines in support of the Writers Guild last Fall, I do not believe SAG’s agreement should be predicated on theirs, or the DGA’s. We are very different and we need a different (not better) contract. 

James Cagney et al fought to found and build SAG during the worst economic upheaval this country had ever seen…until now, and may God bless them for it. No one wants a strike; no one ever wins a strike.  But the AMPTP has succeeded in splitting our membership while offering nothing which would allow working class actors to survive and raise their families in the years ahead.  In such a climate, a little less political sniping and alot more solidarity may be in order.

While I was never an active, union type of guy, I now recognize I should have been much more involved.  And I applaud SAG’s current leadership and their positions, and am extremely disappointed with AFTRA’s.

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By roker NL, December 24, 2008 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Zwoman,  you either did not read the full article or are intentionally misstating Farrell’s motives. This man is working on projects worldwide in an effort to improve the lives of desperate people.

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By Zwoman, December 24, 2008 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am SO disappointed in Mike Farrell for being against voting to strike. Of course, the SAG big shots are only threatening to strike, not even deciding to schedule a REAL strike. I thought Farrell was smarter than this, but he seems to agree with the studio bosses that actors don’t have a right to be paid for their work. He should be ashamed of himself.  For some integrity on the SAG issue, see the World Socialist Web Site today and read the article “The crisis in the Screen Actors Guild and the need for a new political perspective” It was partly written by a SAG member.

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By mmadden, December 24, 2008 at 4:01 am Link to this comment

The day of the Unions are over in this day and age. The reason why the unions were created - to protect the worker from over zealous bosses and lousy working conditions - are over. The people will no longer support your strike. We are too concerned with more important issues at this time. Will we have a job tomorrow, for instance. As for the UAW they are the main reason why the Big 3 are in such dire financial condition. The costs of the pensions and health care are costing more than what those companies can bring in.

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By KDelphi, December 23, 2008 at 7:10 pm Link to this comment

unidentifiedman—Ah, yes, as opposed to the UAWs bold, steadfast actions? How was the SAG strike a “disaster” before?

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By unidentifiedman, December 22, 2008 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

SAG’s leadership is acting, beautifully, playing a script the WGA leadership wrote for themselves—-and as a result, they are prepared for a strike and not for a labor negotiation.
but the rest of us can see that this script ends badly. the WGA strike was a disaster, even a cursory glance at the network landscape is proof. the SAG leadership are behaving irresponsibly—posturing and self righteous and they destined to fail, damaging SAG and all the other guilds and unions in the industry in the process. they must be given a new script titled, Retreat With Dignity, and spare us all another nail in Labor’s coffin.

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By KDelphi, December 22, 2008 at 8:11 pm Link to this comment

I agree that, Labor and Unions are under attack in the US, and, if it is not stopped at ALL levels, it will simply further the dismantling of the working and middle classes. Everyone wil be elite, or, serfs.

I am not sure that some realize all the pain and death that our forebearers experienced, trying to set up Unions in a capitalist market that loathes the “common people”. If we allow Labor to collapse in the uS, we are throwing out the blood and sacrifice of all who came before us.

It is not always about wages (although those matter, and, should be cut from the top down!), but, it often is. More often it is about principles. Workers in the US should be sick to death of the Elites (more than there has ever been in any country, in the history of the planet, with more weatlh concentrated at the top than was thought humanly possible) calling for MORE “cuts” by people who are finding it very difficult to survive! A Depression is NOT the time for CUTS to working people—it is the time to take a look at our present system, and, to ask ourselves, does it serve the People. If it does not, people invented it—we can dismantle it. We should.

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By Folktruther, December 22, 2008 at 11:09 am Link to this comment

Farrell comments are a good example of the function of mainstream progressive truth.  It is to get rank and file progressives to accept conservative positions.  That is why these comments are headlined on Truthdig, rather than comments supporting a strike.

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By Frank Silva, December 22, 2008 at 6:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have a great deal of respect for Mike Farrell. And he makes some good points. I just can’t agree with him this time. I’m both a SAG and AFTRA member.

There is and has been a concerted effort in America to break organized labor. The UAW and SAG are two of America’s more prominent Unions. If we do not stand up today, my fear is that there will be no tomorrow. Big Business and the fat cats running American businesses (that have no allegiance to any Constitution, nation or people) have been plotting against labor ever since economic conditions back in the day forced them to accept unions that they could not make a scene of crushing with overt and public violence. They shovel propaganda to us all through their bought and paid for “news” papers and shows (with the help of AFTRA members cutting their own throats like poor people, working class people, minorities and gays that vote Republican)and using their bought and paid for politicians that represent them while we go unrepresented and pay all the taxes, bear all the burdens of actual work, and pay for and fight all their wars while they and their kids profit from them in safety. (My acting career stalled due to military mobilization and service after 9/11 and I’m still picking up the pieces of my life.)

It’s time we make a stand. It’s too bad that AFTRA, which calls itself organized labor will not stand with us, but that’s the way it is. As an actor, as opposed to a newscaster, I stand with the artists, not the few artists lumped together with media shills. Sorry if that’s insulting to some, but that’s the way it is in my opinion.

We need to stand up. We need to strike. And we need to win. All we are asking for is what’s fair. A hundred years ago people did the hard thing for us and now it’s our turn to do the hard thing for the right reasons and for the future - the future of our industry, the future of organized labor and the future, if there is one, of our nation.

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