Wednesday, July 16, 2008

SAG - Looking Ahead

This short press release from the AMPTP (studio alliance) re today's SAG-AMPTP meeting says it all. Not particularly encouraging. And, below, my analysis.

STATEMENT BY THE AMPTP
A small group from AMPTP and SAG met today. Both parties agreed that the contents of the meeting should be kept private. No further meetings have been scheduled.

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With no announced progress today, and no new meetings scheduled, what happens next?

No strike: SAG probably can't get 75% yes vote to strike (the percentage required), and they're at least afraid they can't, so they won't even call a strike vote.

Likewise, I doubt in a few hour meeting they reached an agreement - I'd be very surprised if this was the case.

I think the Board won't do anything until after the 24th, to see if any credible opposition emerges for the Sept. elections. The 24th is the nominating deadline. Why would they wait? If the Board agrees to a deal now, it would be far short of what they've been demanding - and very similar to the AFTRA deal. That would leave the Membership First faction vulnerable to a charge by opposition that all the money spent opposing the AFTRA deal, and all the foregone or delayed production, was a waste of time, money, and job opportunities.

Conversely, if the Board continues to delay past the Sept. 19th deadline for ballots, they can make the case that the members shouldn't change leadership in the middle of a contract battle. After the election, we might see a deal - or, at least, that the Board sends the deal to members without a recommendation (more likely than the Board doing a deal, unless the studios give them some figleaf improvements, which seems unlikely in light of how contentious SAG has been). Or, we might see continued, longer-term delay.

If the Board has no credible opposition (which is what most people anticipate), then the same analysis applies as the previous paragraph - except that movement, if any, might occur before the September elections. That would be a plus.

Look to get a sense of the Hollywood membership's feelings, and the Membership First faction's positioning, at the Hollywood membership meeting this Saturday, July 19, 11:00-3:00. And look for possible Board action the following Saturday, the 26th. If they do decide to send the deal to the members at that time, look for the balloting deadline to be just before August 15.

That date's the deadline the studios set, after which the improvements in contract minimums in the deal on the table would no longer be retroactive, costing the actors about $10 million. I'm not sure if this time period (7/26 - 8/15) is quite long enough under the SAG rules for a vote (I just don't know), in which case the studios would probably extend the deadline by a few days to accommodate the rules and ensure that the members could obtain the sweeter deal if they voted yes.

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