Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Report on SAG NY Town Hall Meeting

SAG held a town hall meeting in NY last night to provide information re the TV/theatrical contract. It comes a bit late in the process, since the ballots are due back in the mail by next Tuesday, June 9. That means that the last day to reliably mail the ballots is probably Friday, or even Thursday, depending on your faith in the USPS and its vagaries. It also means that we have probably seen the end of the multitude of pro and con videos deployed on the SAG website, Membership First website, and YouTube.

Variety reports the turnout was slim—about 100 actors. SAGWatch infers, accurately I think, that most people have already voted and would have little reason to attend an informational meeting at this point.

The Variety report notes that attendees included SAG interim NED David White, President Alan Rosenberg, MF-ers 1st VP Anne-Marie Johnson and Scott Wilson, while supporters of the deal included Dan Lauria, Dylan Baker, SAG 2nd VP Sam Freed and board members Ralph Byers, Paul Christie, Rebecca Damon, Mike Hodge and Kevin Scullin.

A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, tells me that the MF folks (perhaps 15-20 people) were rowdy, booing people and apparently having their cell phones call en masse to disrupt the meeting.

However, the most interesting thing the source told me is that after the meeting the source spoke individually with Alan Rosenberg and asked whether he would attempt to have SAG reimburse him for his legal fees incurred in the lawsuit he, Johnson, Diane Ladd and Kent McCord files against SAG itself, a suit that has received denials in both the trial and appellate courts but nonetheless continues at both levels.

What’s interesting Rosenberg’s response, as reported by the source: “I don’t have any legal fees. It’s pro bono.” This is a problem—if true, it would explain in part why Rosenberg and his co-plaintiffs continue the futile and disruptive suit against SAG, which is burning up the union’s money at a that the guild has ben left with a $6 million deficit by MF. It’s also a small benefit, in that the plaintiffs will have no legal fees to extract from SAG if they were to recover control of the national board.

I emailed Rosenberg requesting comment on the source’s report and his assistant replied that his response was as follows: “This is a private matter and I don’t want to speak about it publicly”. “I have no further comment”.


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  1. Pro bono? Because, what, the lawyer(s) has/have nothing better to do in this economy? Wow.

  2. Dear Alan: Does the term "d**ch* b*g s*r* l*s*r *ssh*l* f*ckst*ck m*th*rf*ck*r" mean anything to you? With all the money you're saving on legal fees, you can buy the vowels and fill in the blanks yourself. Then again, that would require an ability to spell... or read.

  3. By Matt Mulhern:

    Jonathan's source - Marisa Redanty - please, deny it Jonathan - a total crackpot vote yes, anti-sag, anti-mf, pro-merger, ny partisan, shows Jonathan's bias towards the vote yes crowd more clearly than any single thing he's written.

    Redanty is also obsessed with who paid Scott Wilson's fees a few years back when he basically proved Bob Pisano's conflict of interest in being ned of SAG while serving on the board of Netflix.

    Redanty's obsessions with legal fees are of microscopic importance, given the enormity of the issues at hand. I e-mailed this to Handel last night, as well as Dave McNary of Variety, who used a quote from it in his piece today, although, even though he wasn't there, same as Handel, kind of bought the whole - it wasn't really a vote no night in nyc last night. Well, sorry. Wrong. It was. I was there - and this is what actually happened. Hopefully Jonathan will have the courtesy to leave this up and not continue appearing to shill solely for the vote yes side.

    And, just one note - if you discount Sagwatch - a den of vicious anti-sag, anti-mf, pro-merger vipers, who mostly publish under pseudonym's on a site run anonymously, I think you'd need to acknowledge by now that the reaction to the vote no and vote yes videos is decidedly vote no - if you look at all the other blogs, and estimate an average sentiment. So, either there is a silent majority that is voting yes, or this turd is going down. The blogs - if you're fair and actually read them, show me very, very angry SAG members, who over and over and over - are making clear they think this contract is s*** and needs to be voted down or else the union is in serious trouble and the SAG middle-class actor is pretty much done.

  4. By Matt Mulhern

    I want to let all know that I dreaded going to the NYC town-hall at the DGA theater tonight, I figured if it was anywhere close to the vicious, shameful tirade from the 350-odd NY members last December at the Westin, insulting the President Alan Rosenberg, and then NED Doug Allen, who took all the abuse without ever raising his voice, it would be a nightmare. Someone got so personal with Alan Rosenberg, he actually came down off the podium, and started to go after the guy, until someone steered him away so he could cool down a bit.

    I was stunned by the lack of respect for two guys who were apparently committing the sin of trying to save the fucking union by fighting off this piece of shit contract. Did they mistake the sentiment of the membership, thinking they had slam dunk support, and underestimate the undermining tactics of the NY board (especially Richard Masur, Sam Freed and Paul Christie) to say "yes" to an SAV (they already had), then go right out and stab Rosenberg and Allen in the back by actively undermining the SAV they had just UNANIMOUSLY voted up? Sure. But, the behavior of that crowd at the Westin last December was despicable.

    Cut to tonight. I walk into the DGA theater, expecting the 180 reverse of what happened in L.A. last week. This time, in NY, it will be a "vote yes" ass-whupping, I'm thinking, just like last week it was a "vote-no" ass-whupping in L.A.

    So, I'm sitting there. John McGuire puts everyone to sleep with his slide show as to the nuts and bolts of the contract, then they introduce the panel. Rosenberg's name is spoken, I expect boos, instead? Cheers. Loud cheers.

    The question portion kicks in. I can tell by the grunts and mutterings of the guy next to me, he's a "vote no" guy, like me, and, after about 45 minutes of questions and comments, and answers from the panel, just to give it time to sink in and be sure, I leaned over and said in his ear, "this is unbelievable - this crowd is NOT "vote yes" - I am stunned." He says, "well, maybe we're the only assholes who care and everyone else has voted." I say "yeah, maybe, but, if this is accurately portrayed in the media - you KNOW they and L.A. and all the "vote yes" people are expecting this NY town-hall to be a slam-dunk "vote yes" night, and it's NOT - if anything, it seems to me we're leaning, by the obvious sentiment of a LOT of the questions and statements ("vote no") and by the obvious mastery of the history of the whole process by Rosenberg, who is making decisive, cogent, arguments against the contract, that NO ONE is trumping (not once), and the reaction of the crowd which is beginning to become rather "vote no" in it's exclamations, clapping and vocal support, this is going to be an important night - again - IF the media covers it accurately, for "vote no." The guy says "you're right."

    As the evening wears on and the "vote yes" rational keeps getting POUNDED by people who are NOT buying what Sam Freed and John McGuire and David White are selling, it's clear the "vote yes" sentiment is draining from the room. It's clear, they are NOT rallying any momentum, and they seem to slowly have it dawn on them that they are LOSING THE DEBATE IN THEIR OWN HOUSE.

  5. By Matt Mulhern

    Now, others may characterize this differently, but, I was the FIRST to admit the Westin meeting was unbelievably anti-MF, anti-Rosenberg and Allen, it was a joke.

    This time? The "vote yes" got slapped down by Rosenberg's logic and the support for it in the room over and over and over. The "vote yes" side had NOT ONE "slam dunk" stand-up and cheer moment ALL NIGHT. The "vote no" side had many such reactions - not standing up and cheering, but CLEARLY showing the sentiment in the room was not buying the lame "sunset clause" or "align with the other unions" in 2011" or the "we've GOT jurisdiction if we sign this contract!" argument that one guy was frothing at the mouth over at the microphone. This SAME guy did the SAME thing last December at the Westin, and got a standing ovation. Tonight, he did his "we HAVE to sign this, blah, blah, blah," schtick? And he got NOTHING. Very little reaction, and what their was was decidedly mixed, and MY sense was it was tilted towards "sorry pal, we aint buying it - this contract sucks, sit the fuck down."

    Scott Wilson FLEW TO NYC for the meeting and was second on line, Some bozo tried through "point of order" to deny him the right to speak because he was from L.A. - the crowd SHOUTED this bozo down and the panel let Scott speak, and he made a cogent, rational argument for why giving up these rights and benefits and protections was definitely NOT in the best interest of the Screen Actors Guild going forward.

    There was a LOT of "what do we DO?!" questions: as in "what do we DO if this gets voted down?" "What do we DO if we don't get an SAV?"

    To which Alan clearly and patiently explained, "well, if it gets voted down, then I believe it is incumbent upon the national board to support the will of the membership and both send out and this time SUPPORT an SAV. If we then confront the AMPTP with the SAV and they don't give us a fair contract, we strike. That's what we DO - that's the PLAN."

  6. By Matt Mulhern

    When people kept bringing this up I kept thinking "What do we DO if the Germans invade Paris! What do we DO!?" As if we have a crystal ball. Obviously - we FIGHT for a FAIR contract! We STRIKE and we slap down the weak sister portion of the union and get them out on the line STANDING up for the rights of the Screen Actors Guild. That's what we fucking DO for chrissakes!

    At the end of the night, I yelled out from the back row, a couple things. John McGuire, somehow, actually started DEFENDING the DVD deal from 1986! He started trying to explain that "back then it was 70% theatrical, and 30% foreign - now it's the opposite and we've gone from 30 million in 1990 to 130 million in 2007" - something like that. This is against the backdrop of the recent WGA study estimating SAG has LOST 4.5 BILLION DOLLARS due to signing that deal in 1986, taking the producers word they would renegotiate, which of course - they never did. SAME story in cable!

    I saw Alan Rosenberg smiling slightly and looking bewildered by McGuire's words and I HAD to yell out "YOU ARE ACTUALLY DEFENDING THE DVD DEAL?!" at which point Mr. Mcgiure sat back in his chair with a defeated and pissed-off look on his face. Another shout-out was when someone started blathering on about union "alignment" in 2011, and I said "THERE IS NO PRECEDENT FOR UNION COLLABORATION. NONE." The "sunset clause?" Got ripped to shreds - it has NO force of law - all it means is we supposedly have a "clean slate" in 2011. What is DOESN'T mean is the AMPTP, other than saying "O.K. - sunset clause, clean slate," is under force of LAW required to change ONE DAMN THING in the contract, and Alan Rosenberg explained that Peter Chernin told him way back at the beginning of negotiations "yeah, we can revisit it, but you'll have to give US SOMETHING if you want to get anything."

    Give THEM something? On top of what we're giving them ALREADY if we sign THIS shit contract? Is he fucking kidding?

    There was also a complete debunking of the "covered performer" myth. It was made clear by tough questioning that logic dictates, and as Alan Rosenberg SAID he was TOLD by Les Moonves of CBS "Oh, hell yes we want to exploit that space - we're going to use it nonunion all the time - as much as we can" - COMPLETELY clearing up this idea that, at the last minute, after ANY producer has gotten down to casting a budgeted nonunion project, that it will be in their best interest to SEEK out someone to say "Hey - Bob is a covered performer! Hey everybody - this whole thing just went UNION!!" - thereby quintupling (?) his costs and making the project fail cause he's budgeted for a nonunion compliant FRACTION of what it will cost him if it goes union! Common sense, right? Well, tonight, that myth was shot so full of holes it sank to the bottom so fast you didn't see the bubbles.

    So, unless there's some kind of "silent majority" out in LA. and NY - what I have seen in these two meetings, is a slam dunk "no" meeting in L.A. and what I would describe, charitably, as a 60% to 40% "no" meeting in NY.

    This pig might just be going down. I can tell you for a fact, the looks on the faces of David White, John McGuire, Sam Freed and Mike Hodge said "I thought these were friendlies and many of them are not." I saw real worry on the faces, and rightfully so.

    Again, if this is portrayed fairly (ha) in the media, this is a BIG shot off the bow of the "vote yes" people. Even Tom Hank's got ripped a new asshole by a questioner. A lot of people in that crowd were NOT pleased.

  7. Hi Matt -

    Some responses:

    1. Of course I'll leave your comments up, and happily so. I welcome comments from all sides of the aisle/table. I don't think I've ever deleted a comment, except for ads for Viagra that appear every now and then.

    2. I have no comment on who my sources are when they've asked for anonymity.

    3. If you read my piece more carefully, you'll see I didn't address the issue of who "won" and who "lost" in the room in NY, or what the comments in the room might mean for passage. I'm not convinced that one can make any reliable inference on this from a small meeting that occurred outside of LA at a time that most people have probably already voted.

    I didn't quote anyone on this either way, and that's why I didn't quote you on it. I read your comments with an eye towards seeing if there was anything relevant to what I was writing.

    4. I did remark that MF booed people. Anyone who's ben following the issue could infer that this meant they booed the pro-contract side.

    5. Re balance, note that I asked Alan Rosenberg for comment on my source's recounting of their conversation. I printed what he asked his assistant to tell me in response.


    For the above reasons, I stand by my piece.