Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Further Thoughts on AFTRA and SAG

Expanding on my previous post, I do want to acknowledge the obvious: this vote was a strong victory for AFTRA, especially in light of SAG's aggressive campaign against the vote. It was almost 2 to 1. AFTRA members are making a statement that they want to work, not strike. That's something the industry should be encouraged by.

Unfortunately, I also think that SAG leadership will view this vote, in their own minds, as a moral victory. That's because the margin was significantly lower than what the unopposed daytime deal achieved (93%), and SAG's viewpoint is going to prolong the process of achieving a deal. SAG's omnibus approach also risks making it more difficult for the Guild to achieve improvements in more focused areas in which improvement might be achievable.

One key such area is minimums for clip usage. Reportedly, neither the deal on the table from the AMPTP nor the AFTRA deal have such minimums. In my opinion, they should: setting minimums is a core function of any Hollywood union. Another area is product integration, where it does seem that some of what SAG is seeking is reasonable, and a compromise should be achievable. Finally, SAG should focus on holding the line on industry-proposed changes to the way force majeure is handled in the existing SAG agreement.

SAG has also listed various other issues, but the major ones seem unachievable: significant change in the new media template now adopted in four separate deals (DGA, WGA, AFTRA daytime, and now AFTRA primetime); an increase in DVD residuals (not achieved in any of those four deals, nor, apparently, even sought in several cases); and increases greater than 3.5% in certain minimums (2.5%, 3.0% or 3.5% is the norm, seldom deviated from). SAG's focus on these issues is, as I said, distracting and dilutes its more realistic points.

What remains to be seen is how this all will play out. One thing seems clear: a SAG deal won't be quick or easy.

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