Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hollywood Labor: SAG Source Says a Strike Unlikely, Joint SAG-AFTRA Bargaining Likely; and the Year Ahead

A SAG strike in the upcoming negotiating cycle is “difficult to envision,” a source from SAG’s moderate faction, Unite for Strength, told me, though he/she cautioned that avoiding one will require that management negotiate reasonably and he/she wouldn’t take the strike option off the table (as, indeed, no union could).

The source also said SAG’s upcoming January 31 national board meeting will probably feature a move towards resurrecting joint bargaining with AFTRA, adding that he/she was confident that bargaining later this year would indeed be jointly conducted. If the board does act on January 31, look for AFTRA’s board to respond at its February 27 meeting.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested the SAG-AFTRA unity move might come in the form of a resolution committing SAG to engage in joint bargaining and empowering someone – David White (SAG’s National Executive Director), Ken Howard (SAG’s elected president) or an appointed committee – to engage in talks with AFTRA towards that goal. (Indeed, Howard has already had informal contacts with AFTRA president Roberta Reardon, as Back Stage has reported.) Successful joint negotiations are, the source indicated, a steppingstone to merger with AFTRA, a goal that UFS has consistently espoused.

The bargaining in question is with the AMPTP (studio alliance) regarding the TV/theatrical contract. Those negotiations were conducted jointly for 27 years under the “Phase I” agreement, but AFTRA suspended that agreement during the last round of negotiations after provocative attempts by SAG (under previous leadership) to modify the agreement to AFTRA’s disadvantage.

Those negotiations will commence October 1, 2010 and run for 6 weeks. The current contract doesn’t expire until June 30, 2011, but the early bargaining is taking place pursuant to a clause included in the current agreement (ratified in June 2009) at the AMPTP’s insistence.

And a heads up: the rest of this article is pretty much insider baseball, so proceed if you want the nitty-gritty details on what the year ahead may hold for Hollywood labor, and SAG in particular.

Negotiating Priorities

The source listed various possible priorities for the negotiations, while cautioning that such a list is obviously subject to change over the next nine months, or at least the next five or six, since I’m told by a source with knowledge of AFTRA scheduling that that union would probably want to arrive at a package of proposals by June or so. (The SAG source’s timing suggests a somewhat later date.)

A more fundamental reason the following list is preliminary is that SAG (and AFTRA) have not yet begun the “wages and working conditions” (W&W) process of canvassing members and soliciting their input on issues of concern. Nor has SAG appointed a Negotiating Committee for the upcoming talks. With those caveats in mind, the priorities the source listed were as follows:

(1) New Media. SAG is not particularly happy with the compromises made in new media. One possible move, depending on what SAG learns from data supplied by the producers (pursuant to an information sharing provision of the new media sideletter to the TV/theatrical agreement), is that SAG might seek a shortening of the time period during which the studios pay low fixed dollar amount residuals for ad-supported streaming of television programs. After the fixed residual period, the contract specifies a percentage of gross receipts. Thus, shortening the fixed residual cycle would move up the point at which potentially more lucrative percentage residuals are paid.

Regarding information sharing, by the way, SAG may have an opportunity to review information from other guilds in addition to what the producers supply, as the source told me that SAG president Ken Howard has had conversations with the presidents of other guilds/unions and hopes that all will share information.

(2) Basic Cable. The SAG basic cable contract is separate from the TV/theatrical agreement, but expires at the same time. (AFTRA doesn’t have a basic cable contract per se; it negotiates one-off deals with the producers, though the deals each have similarities.) In light of the growing number of scripted programs on basic cable – and even the possibility that NBC might one day cease broadcasting and become a basic cable channel – improvements in the basic cable agreement are important to actors.

Here, the UFS source indicated, a priority may be strengthening terms related to working conditions. The TV/theatrical agreement has many provisions regarding meal breaks, overtime, turnaround (the time between end of work one night and call time (start of work) the next day) and the like, whereas the basic cable agreement is less protective of actors in these areas. The actors’ goal here would be to obtain more protections.

Basic cable residuals are much less lucrative to actors than broadcast residuals, but the source did not focus on seeking improvements in this area. Significant improvements may not be achievable, given the lower budgets and smaller audiences of most basic cable programs.

(3) Spanish Language Organizing. This is a growing area of programming, and one that the source cited as a negotiating priority. However, it was not clear to me how this would affect the TV/theatrical agreement itself. Interestingly, the source stated that SAG does not have a negotiating department at present, an issue I did not have a chance to contact SAG’s spokesperson about.

(4) Pension and Health (P&H). Concern in these areas is driven by two factors: (a) The various union pension plans are suffering from diminished assets due to the stock market crash and diminished contributions (which are based on earnings) due to the weakness of the industry, the soft economy, and wages lost due to the 2007-2009 work stoppages. (b) Also under stress are the health plans, which are challenged by the ever-increasing cost of health care, and which may be subject to taxation as “Cadillac plans” under the new health care reform legislation working its way through Congress. For these reasons, P&H may be bigger factors in the upcoming negotiations than they have been in the recent past.

(5) Resynchronizing SAG Minimums. AFTRA reached agreement on its current deal by June 30, 2008, and received a 3.5% bump in minimum wage rates. In contrast, SAG’s deal wasn’t ratified until almost a year later. As a result, SAG received its first increase almost a year after AFTRA, and is therefore at a lower wage rate for the duration of the current contract. A priority for SAG is raising those rates, not just for the obvious reason, but also because synchronizing the two union’s wage rates is a necessary precondition to merger.

It’s clear that the AMPTP would want any increase for SAG wage rates to be paid for by SAG foregoing another economic priority. (The AMPTP, SAG and AFTRA had no comment for this article on any matters.) That raises the question of how to reduce the bite of resynchronization. I suggested one possibility: rather than SAG seeking an immediate double-size increase at the beginning of the 2011-2014 agreement, the guild could instead seek acceleration of its annual increases, resulting in a gradual rise to parity. (Warning – some math ahead. Skip to the next section if you’re phobic . . . .)

Here’s how this approach would work. If the agreement follows the customary pattern, AFTRA will receive annual increases on July 1, 2011, July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013. Those increases will probably be between 2.5% to 3.5% per year. (They’re 3.5% per year under the current agreements.) SAG will receive an annual increase on July 1, 2011 as well, but that still leaves it one increment (i.e., 3.5%) behind AFTRA.

To bring SAG up to parity, the agreement could give SAG its next increase 9 months later (say April 1, 2012), rather than the 12 months that AFTRA will wait. That brings SAG up to parity with AFTRA, but only for the 3 month period until AFTRA’s July 1, 2012 increase kicks in. But then the agreement could give SAG its next increase 9 months after its April 1, 2012 increase – i.e., on January 1, 2013. Now SAG will match AFTRA for a period of 6 months, until AFTRA’s July 1, 2013 increase kicks in. Then, the agreement could give SAG an increase 9 months after its January 1, 2013 increase, i.e., on October 1, 2013. Now SAG will match AFTRA for the remaining 9 months of the contract (i.e., through June 30, 2014). At that point, the unions will stay synchronized, because the 2014-2017 will commence by giving both unions an increase on July 1, 2014.

Now look at the boldface portions of the preceding paragraph: 3 months plus 6 months plus 9 months equals 18 months that SAG will be synchronized with AFTRA. In other words, SAG will be at AFTRA wage levels for half the contract term. That’s a compromise halfway between the current situation, which is no parity, and an approach that gives full parity immediately upon commencement of the 2011 contract. By splitting the difference, SAG’s other priorities would take less of a hit – at a cost, of course, of delaying full parity.

The point of all this is that parity need not be an all or nothing proposition. This approach is a way to incrementally restore parity. And, by varying the 9 months in my example, the tradeoff between time to parity and cost of parity can be tuned to whatever negotiators deem appropriate.

A different approach would be to give SAG its increases at one year intervals, just like AFTRA, but to give SAG larger increases than AFTRA receives, such that by the end of the contract term, SAG is at the same level as AFTRA. Here again, the approach can be tuned, but perhaps not as precisely, since SAG would have to reach parity in exactly 3 years, 2 years or 1 year.

Framework for Joint Bargaining

Moving on from math, let’s talk about joint bargaining. The UFS source pointed out that the jointly-bargained commercials contract was not actually bargained under Phase I, but rather under a freestanding joint bargaining agreement. That agreement includes a non-disparagement agreement that clamped down on anti-AFTRA rhetoric coming from SAG’s hardline Membership First faction.

My source also said that the non-disparagement agreement was essential to the success of those negotiations (and I’m sure AFTRA would agree). Yet, according to the source, it would be difficult to include the non-disparagement clauses in Phase I, since the Phase I agreement is part of SAG’s constitution, meaning that revising Phase I would require jumping through various hoops, such as a 2/3 vote which might not be achievable, given MF’s representation on the board).

The solution? Extending the freestanding joint bargaining agreement to cover the TV/theatrical negotiations, or creating a new such agreement. So, than Phase I, we may see this reboot, or remake, or sequel instead. It’s just like going to the cinema, if your idea of a good movie includes Roberts Rules of Order.

Negotiating Committee

The UFS source told me that the joint negotiating committee would have 50-50 representation from SAG and AFTRA, with equal weight for each member. That’s a given, in that AFTRA would agree to nothing less.

The SAG portion of the committee will have 11 members from Hollywood, 4 from New York and 4 from the Regional Branch Division (i.e., everywhere else). Since the Hollywood Division, which is controlled by MF, appoints the Hollywood members of the Negotiating Committee, does that mean that the partisan split in the Committee will be 11 MF and 8 moderates? Not necessarily. SAG president Ken Howard is a Hollywood member, and it would be very bizarre for MF to refuse to seat him (and, in fact, to refuse to make him chair of the committee).

If Ken Howard gets a seat, that yields a 10 to 9 balance in MF’s favor – but only if MF is determined not to appoint any other moderates (UFS or independents) to the Hollywood contingent on the committee. If MF is not united, or if they fail to bring all of their national board members (or alternates sitting for them) to the Hollywood board meeting, then they may not be able to insist on controlling all 10 seats. The result could be 10 to 9 or so in the moderates’ favor.

In any case, most or all of the AFTRA appointees will likely be moderate in temperament, giving moderate voices a majority on the joint committee. This is what angers MF, and is why they tried in 2007-2008 to modify Phase I to AFTRA’s disadvantage.

As for when the Negotiating Committee would be appointed, the source noted that that wouldn’t happen until AFTRA had responded at its February meeting to SAG’s January initiative (assuming that’s when things play out). SAG’s next national board meeting after AFTRA’s February meeting is in April. So, at that meeting, the SAG national board would create the new Negotiating Committee and ask the divisional boards to appoint their respective members.

For Hollywood, this appointment process would happen at the next monthly Hollywood board meeting, which would probably be the May monthly meeting (it could be the April meeting, depending on when in April the Hollywood and national board meetings fall, but I suspect that the divisional board meetings precede the national board meetings).

Another note re the Negotiating Committee: the old Negotiating Committee – the one that the SAG board disbanded in January 2009 when the moderates acted by written assent (also firing the previous SAG National Executive Director) – well, the old Negotiating Committee actually still exists, or was resurrected, and is now the Standing Negotiating Committee. That’s the committee that administers the contract, granting waivers and such. Also, the Negotiating Task Force (which replaced the Negotiating Committee) still exists, though it’s dormant. In any case, these factoids are apparently of academic interest; a new Negotiating Committee will be appointed for the upcoming negotiations, though obviously some of the members will be the same.

Upcoming Board Meetings

The schedule of national board meetings for SAG and AFTRA is: Jan. 31 (SAG), February 27 (AFTRA), April (SAG), June 10 (AFTRA), Sept. 25 (AFTRA), and Oct. (SAG). Thus, if SAG does not act decisively at its January 31 meeting, a special meeting of the SAG board may be necessary in order for the process to play out so that the Negotiating Committee can be appointed and the W&W begin in a timely fashion.

Will AFTRA Agree to Joint Bargaining? Will the AMPTP?

Ideally, the unions will decide that they should indeed bargain jointly. The last thing the industry, or the unions, need is more uncertainty and inter-union conflict. All that bought last time for SAG was a one year stalemate that got SAG a worse deal than it could have obtained a year earlier, and at a cost of tens of millions of dollars in lost wages due to suspended motion picture production.

Admittedly, the suspension of Phase I did help AFTRA become viewed by the industry as a more significant player than in the past. Also, AFTRA feels burned by SAG’s actions towards it in 2007-2008 (again, this was under a previous SAG administration). Thus, AFTRA is likely to require a significant degree of reassurance from SAG that despite SAG’s still messy politics, a SAG commitment to joint bargaining would be honored. Making things even more difficult, reviving joint bargaining will require that neither union feels it is apologizing for the 2008 breakdown. It’s an extremely delicate dance.

There’s also the question of whether the AMPTP will agree to negotiate jointly, since (as far as I can tell) they don’t have to. They’ll almost certainly agree though: doing otherwise would look like the organization was actively seeking labor discord. In addition, since the AMPTP has generally found AFTRA easier to deal with, why wouldn’t they want them in the room with SAG? After all, the AMPTP engaged in joint bargaining under Phase I for 27 years. Also, separate bargaining could (and probably would) result in different contract proposals, further complicating negotiations.

Will the Early Negotiations Result in an Early Deal?

Early negotiations are one thing, but an early deal is another. SAG doesn’t have a history of reaching early agreement. However, another factor is the DGA. Their contract doesn’t expire until mid-2011 (concurrent with SAG and AFTRA Ex. A, and just two months after the WGA), but they like to negotiate early. If SAG doesn’t reach an agreement during this fall’s early negotiations, which end November 15, then the holidays pretty much ensure that there will be no further negotiating opportunities until January.

At that point, the DGA may step in and do its deal – just as it did in January 2008, after the WGA failed to do a deal (and remained on strike) in fall 2007. In other words, SAG has a chance to set the template, but only if it reaches an early agreement. Let’s hope it does, since otherwise we may see stockpiling of motion pictures (i.e., accelerated production) in early 2011, followed by a disruptive slowdown (i.e., a de facto strike or de facto lockout).

What about the WGA?

Speaking of the WGA, what role are they likely to play this time? It’s too early to predict with confidence. On the one hand, WGA members last year elected a new, more moderate president, are unlikely to want a second strike, and were never as dissatisfied with the new media deal as SAG was and probably still is. On the other hand, the WGA board is still under control of former president Patric Verrone and his allies (though who knows whether this might change in the fall) and the executive director is still David Young. With SAG negotiating in fall of this year, and the DGA negotiating most likely in January or so of 20111, I’m guessing the WGA will play a less central role this time around, but that could easily change.

The SAG Elections

Add this to the mix: Late summer and fall will bring the SAG elections, which make people even more irritable than the Santa Ana winds that arrive concurrently – though, thankfully, not as irritable as Raymond Chandler famously described in Red Wind: “On nights (when Santa Anas blow) every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.” On the positive side, notes Chandler (and brushing past the quaint sexism of days gone noir), “you can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

In any case, those elections will no doubt be a referendum on the upcoming negotiations. Indeed, in a case of awkward timing, the new board will likely be seated in late September, just days before the early negotiations are set to start. That could be a bit disruptive. However, as with last year, the only national board members in Hollywood whose terms are up are from Membership First, since the UFS members (and moderate Morgan Fairchild) were elected in 2008 to 3 year terms. Thus, on the national board, MF can only lose ground or, at most, hold their current numbers. On the Hollywood board, the possibilities are more wide open, but given UFS’s commanding results in the 2009 elections, it’s quite possible MF will lose ground there as well.

What Else Will AFTRA be Doing?

In another quirk of scheduling, the AFTRA daytime agreement expires November 15 of this year. That’s the portion of the AFTRA agreement that AFTRA always negotiates solo, without SAG. AFTRA will probably want to negotiate starting in September as it has in the past, or perhaps a bit earlier in order to avoid bumping up against the Oct. 1 start date for SAG negotiations. Either way, AFTRA will be in the negotiating room before SAG (indeed, while SAG is still preoccupied with its elections).

There’s yet another wrinkle to this: the daytime agreement has new media sideletters that are similar to the new media sideletters for the AFTRA primetime agreement (and SAG, WGA and DGA agreements). Thus, since AFTRA will presumably be negotiating before SAG, then AFTRA daytime negotiators may be discussing new media issues before SAG does, just as was the case in 2008, in fact.

This timing may give AFTRA a first cut at revisions to the new media deal – a fact that’s unlikely to sit well with the Membership First faction of SAG, just as it didn’t in 2008. Of course, it’s also possible that AFTRA will defer a discussion of new media until October 1, if the two unions are bargaining jointly.

(BTW, I’m using “daytime agreement” as a convenient shorthand. The gory details are as follows: AFTRA has one contract that’s relevant here, called the Network Code, or “Net Code” to its friends. Exhibit A of the Net Code deals with primetime programs, and was jointly negotiated with SAG’s TV/theatrical agreements for several decades until the last negotiating cycle. The “front of the book” portions of the Net Code (i.e., most everything other than Exhibit A) deal with daytime dramas (soap operas) and other areas in which there’s no overlap with SAG and is always negotiated by AFTRA alone. Most of the guild agreements now have two sideletters relating to new media, but the Net Code has four such sideletters, of which two relate to the front of the book and two to Ex. A, although the distinction is actually rather murky.)

What Else Will SAG Discuss at its January Board Meeting?

The UFS source gave me a preview of likely subjects at the January board meeting. In addition to SAG-AFTRA joint bargaining, they include:

(1) Revising the SAG-AFTRA non-disparagement agreement so that supporters of candidates for SAG or AFTRA board can speak freely about the other union without the possibility that the supporter’s union would be sanctioned for disparagement. Currently, the non-disparagement agreement includes such an exemption for the candidates themselves, but statements by their supporters during an election do not have this protection.

(2) Amending the procedure for written assent so that the assent would have to be circulated to all board members, not just those who agree with the assent (which was the approach the moderates took with the January 2009 written assent).

(3) Reducing the initiation fee for actors who join one of SAG’s regional branches rather than LA or New York.

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That’s a full agenda, considering that it’s a one-day video meeting rather than a two-day in-person confab.

The Corporate SAG

Now for something unexpected: a situation that puts SAG behind the looking glass, this time sitting on the management side of the table. That will happen this year, because some portion of the SAG staff is itself unionized, and is represented by Teamsters Local 986. In that context, SAG is actually management. About 50 SAG staff are members, and the Teamsters representation dates back to February 2001. Interestingly, it took five or six months to achieve a contract, and a strike authorization vote was necessary.

In any case, the contract run for 3 years, and this iteration expires June 1. Negotiations have sometimes been difficult in the past – at one point, staffers worked without a contract while negotiations continued for three months past expiration.

Certainly this round of negotiations have the potential to be bumpy, in light of the economy generally and, more particularly, the layoffs imposed by the union in 2009. Also aggravating the situation from staffers’ point of view are the significant pay increases that some guild execs received in 2008 (at a time, it should be noted, when the guild was under different leadership).

One question this history raises is whether the represented employees will get the typical 3% annual increases. My guess is probably so (after all, SAG itself secured 3.5% increases for its members). A harder issue is whether the Teamsters will push for a No Layoffs clause. I’m guessing they will. It’s a tough stance for a union to take in this economy, but the Teamsters have leverage by virtue of the calendar: SAG (as employer) can ill-afford to let the 986 contract expire and then be in a labor dispute with its own staff into the early fall as negotiations between SAG (as a union) and the AMPTP bear down. The PR fallout would be too unpleasant.

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48 comments:

  1. What then? A suddenly brazen, muscular UFS, NY, RBD and A-list talent coalition, joining with the MF sentiment in SAG to do what needs to be done to reconfigure the disastrous 2009 agreement? A common agreement to not allow the AMPTP to get away with crying "poor mouth" when they just experienced an explosive - record-setting year, despite EVERYONE's predictions, including yours, that it was "crazy" to even threaten, by an SAV to strike in the worst economy since the Great Depression? Remember that? How did that turn out? Remember the people on the MF side of the issues citing clear historical evidence that, in a time of recession, the entertainment business has reaped record profits, or at least done well, because people opt for less expensive entertainment choices (movies, TV) in a down economy? Remember that? Who was right? So, when the AMPTP cries poverty, will UFS, NY, RBD and the A-list talent stand up NEXT TIME? Look, membership will vote, the small percentage who do (who can blame them? there's no work and the pay, increasingly, sucks) with their WALLETS, and, you go out on the street and ask "how, in this record setting year for the entertainment industry are YOU doing as a SAG actor?" of, say 50 SAG middle-class actors, and see what response you get. Go on, I dare you. Then report back with what percentage says "good or great." It's pretty thin gruel out there Mr. Handel, and the elitist movement of stars or NY, RBD, UFS and their supporters, many of whom are NOT making good money BECAUSE of this contract, and, who, much like Republicans, vote against THEIR OWN FINANCIAL BEST INTEREST despite the FACTS of the economic and business reality of the entertainment industry, not to mention the OVERWHELMING record arguing AGAINST NOT TAKING A TOUGH STAND on precedent (VHS/DVD, cable) - let's see what THEY say.

    As Ed Harris said "why don't we concern ourselves with the needs of THE SCREEN ACTOR'S GUILD?"

    Matt Mulhern
    SAG, AFTRA, DGA, AEA

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  2. Let's be factual Jonathan - always step one. SAG DID explore, regarding the 2008 (at the time) TV/Theatrical agreement, "proportional representation." In other words, if AFTRA has 5% - FIVE PERCENT! - of the TV/Theatrical work, why should they have 50% of the seats at the negotiating table? The practical reality of this longstanding arrangement, was the inevitable, "SAG too tough, AFTRA too soft" negotiating run-around, and can you really honestly say, it wasn't worth EXPLORING this obvious imbalance, given the allocation of work, at the time? Seriously? That was "provocative?" I would think it was simply an accurate take on the facts, and an attempt to right something that has hamstrung SAG in TV/Theatrical negotiations since the inception of Phase 1. By virtue of their veto power, AFTRA was always - ALWAYS - pushing for a softer stance, much less willing to take a realistic approach to negotiations with the AMPTP, instead, falling to AFTRA's default position whenever threatened by the AMPTP: "cave." That's simply the truth, the evidence shows it, and the simple pointing out of the imbalance (5% of the work, 50% of the say?!) was enough to send the pro-merger, pro-AFTRA, anti-SAG, SAG members into frothing at the mouth seizures.

    Speaking of frothing at the mouth seizures, did you report that at the last meeting Alan Rosenberg stood up, as a national board member, and proposed a motion to require both SAG and AFTRA disclose the differences between contracts that cover the same work? Mayhem! Literally, according to those present. "It will alienate AFTRA!!" they brayed. Ed Harris got up and said, forcefully, "why are you spending so much time screaming and yelling about the rights of AFTRA? We're the SCREEN ACTORS GUILD!" Silence. Thank God, Harris had the willingness to run. SAG needs more board members with the experience as actors, who also have a clear-eyed perception of the behavior of AFTRA over the years, to stand up at the microphone at meetings and simply speak the truth. What you don't mention in your comment about Ken Howard's Backstage interview, is his very interesting take on things. I'm paraphrasing here, but, seems Mr. Howard is not particularly concerned with merger at this time. Simply a return to Phase 1. And, as you note, he speaks of the need for a fair share of all profit as a demand in the 2011 talks, beginning in October 2010. That sounds, to me, like the idea that originally came out of the writer's strike: a percentage of gross income across all platforms, which I support, and you have championed as well. Now, the "anonymous" UFS source may tell you strike is not "off the table" but, you and I, and most unfortunately, the AMPTP knows, if the "moderate" faction of SAG has its druthers, there will come a time, inevitably, when the negotiations get around to the ridiculously low fixed rates of the 2009 TV/Theatrical New Media agreement, and the "moderates" may ASK for a percentage of all income across all platforms, or at least in new media (which may become all platforms soon enough anyway), but, you and I both know the AMPTP will say "no."

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  3. David - Thanks!

    Matt - A lot of your post is backward-looking, and I think there's little value to rearguing the actions of MF and the Allens, such as restructuring voting power under Phase I. In any case, I don't have the time to.

    I do agree that AFTRA should be more transparent regarding contracts, though I can understand their approach as stemming from a feeling that openness just lends fuel to those who want to "acquire actors of AFTRA" and are apparently more interested in infighting than constructive engagement.

    Given that AFTRA is not going to agree to anything less than 50-50 on a joint committee, do you think the unions should bargain jointly this time? Why / why not? What priorities should they focus on, in new media and otherwise?

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  4. Jonathan:

    "Backward looking": Convenient. "History repeats itself". Realism. You cop to nothing, like the Bush people. You were wrong, dead wrong, about the record year coming. You say nothing of the imbalance at the negotiating table, you only say "AFTRA will never..." Why, as a lawyer, unless you had an agenda, would you say that? Makes no sense.

    One thing I left out. Especially as a lawyer, please inform us, oh wise one, why Duncan Turncoat Ireland is looking to "upgrade" the "written assent" rule in the SAG constitution?

    You and I both know the answer: because Ireland knows NOW it was against CA labor code for not-for-profits (SAG) the way it was carried out in 2009. CA code, which CLEARLY states written assent MUST be distributed to ALL national board members. OOPS!

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  5. The "looking backward" argument can make you look ridiculous Jonathan. If where SAG is, is largely the result of the violation of the law, that should be corrected, yes?

    Phase 1? Fine with me. Merger? Not happening, and Ken Howard basically cops to that in the Backstage interview. "Not now" he says. "Not now" will turn into "not while I'm President - it's too much of a TIME AND MONEY DRAIN, AND IT'S ALREADY FAILED 16 TIMES."

    Also, Howard is proposing "a percentage of the total pie."

    Your reaction?

    That's filthy MF talk! A FAIR deal!! That's CRAZY!! That will make the pro-AFTRA, anti-SAG, anti-unionsists now running SAG - the "moderates" - AND the AMPTP, livid!!

    Do you honestly think, Jonathan, that Howard proposing that, will be met by anything other than "hell no" by the AMPTP? No, you don't. What then? Will YOU adivise and support a strike?

    If TV/Theatrical - mainly film (ALL SAG) had a MASSIVE year in 2009, strike means ALL FILM STOPS. Right? Is there ANYTHING more terrifying to the AMPTP than that regarding the 2011 talks, starting in 2010 October? No, there's not.

    So, what's your advice? You and I both know,the AMPTP will never budge from tiny, ridiculous, incremental raises in the new media deal.

    You and I both know they will NEVER give back clip consent, STOP the current, previously UNTHINKABLE (and against the union's "core principles" - written by RICHARD MASUR!!) non-union space in SAG's contract, give back product placement protections, or force majeure, since the "moderate" faction of the union, with YOUR support and advice, settled, the excuse being the "economy." How'd that work out Jonathan?

    Please show some courage and own up to your advice being, largely TERRIBLE. Be HONEST.

    So, IF you allow yourself to be honest, what's YOUR take on the upcoming negotiations? Phase 1? Fine with me. But what do you recommend, when the AMPTP laughs at the "sunset clause," which, you yourself called a "meaningless fig leaf?"

    What do you recommend, when the AMPTP stonewalls, starting in Oct. 2010, and UFS,NY,RBD and A-list talent lines up AGAIN, AGAINST a fair contract, a FAIR slice of the pie for the SAG middle-class actor?

    Do you honestly think, NEXT time, the "moderates" and the A-listers will go get an SAV going INTO negotiations, and strike if they don't get a fair deal - a percentage of gross income across all platforms?

    Let's not talk in "nothing happened that got us here is worth discussing" nonsensical terms. Let's acknowledge the DISASTROUS mistakes the moderates and YOU made (in terms of your take and advice) then, let's talk SERIOUSLY of what you predict for 2011, and HOW YOU would advise SAG get a FAIR contract.

    I'm all ears.

    Matt Mulhern

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  6. In other words, there was A VIOLATION OF CA LABOR CODE in that use of written assent by SAG in the muzzling of Rosenberg and the firing of Allen. The SAG constituion was ILLEGAL in it's "written assent" rule, as stated at that time (and still, as I write this) YOU know it, I know it. Duncan Turncoat Ireland? DIDN'T know it, at the time, and that's why he allowed the written assent to be handed out to ONLY the "yes" votes and NOT the entire national board.

    THAT'S why the "gang of four" lawsuit is still alive. So, please, as a lawyer, even though it pains you to "look backward," along with your completely WRONG prediction and advice regarding the entertainment industry's prospects for 2009 "in the worst economy since the Great Depression" causing you (among other reasons) to support the moderate "cave now" stance for the '09 TV/Theatrical deal, please explain your take on this CLEAR breach of CA labor law by the coup perpetrators in their unlawful use of written assent.

    The US congress argues, then, votes. EVERYBODY votes, not just those in favor of the motion.

    THE SAME APPLIES TO the MIS-use, the UNLAWFUL use of written assent in '09 - they didn't distribute the assent to the ENTIRE national board, ONLY the "yes" votes. That was a CLEAR violation of state labor law. So, what's your legal take on that? Is there a statute of limitations on that, such an OBVIOUS violation of the law, approved by SAG's own council, that has had such a PROFOUND change on SAG policy?

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  7. Gee, Matt, I guess every single court every single appeals court every single judge, that heard the lawsuit re: written assent disagrees with you. And your law degree is from????

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  8. anonymous (hee-hee)
    the first rejection was for a tro, to stop the action dead. the appeal for the tro was also denied. the meat of the lawsuit, however, is the sag constitution, at the time, in its written assent rule, was AGAINST THE LAW.

    law degree? nope. common sense, and logical? yup,

    so - how do you, or jonathan, explain this?

    again, I'm all ears. try answering the question, and not attack the questioner.

    matt mulhern

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  9. Thing is - the elected SAG members who are most probably in line to spearhead the next negotiations with the AMPTP have made none of the decisions or plans mentioned in Mr. Handel's article, nor have they even yet strategized in such a direction. The most likely fact-gatherers and planners to busy themselves with this so far would be the unions' hired staffs. The entire article is empty speculation. It may have as a source a UFS-er - but whoever it is (if they even exist) is certainly NOT an "insider." There have not even been W&Ws yet. And the meathead trying to argue here (or whatever he thinks he's doing) with Mr. Handel knows absolutely nothing about negotiations, past or present. Not one quote, incident, or concept he mentions in his blather here comes close to being accurate.

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  10. Matt -

    A small correction: you assert that the written assent violated the Cal. Labor Code. Actually, the MF plaintiffs' claim is a violation of the Cal. Corporations Code.

    The lower court denied the TRO in part because it did not see a likelihood that the plaintiffs would prevail on the merits. That's a sign that the judge does not agree with your interpretation of the law.

    The appeals court declined to reverse (i.e., declined to require a TRO) because it considers the case moot. I would expect the lower court to dismiss the entire case at some point for the same reason, but civil procedure is complex.

    Anonymous -

    The speculation that you seem to be highlighting is the list of negotiating priorities. Those items aren't my speculation; they're from a well-informed UFS source. In addition, I acknowledge in my article that W&W hasn't started and the results of that process will no doubt affect the package of proposals that SAG ultimately puts forward.

    The source does exist, your parenthetical notwithstanding.

    Jonathan

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  11. Your "source" may exist, Jonathan (and may even be relatively "well-informed"), but I doubt very highly that he/she is a "leader" of the UFS party, as is now being claimed by Steve Diamond, who has picked up this non-story and is expounding a Finke-like "Toldja" recitation. Because that's what all this is: non-story. As I said before, those electeds within SAG who are most likely to be spearheading the negotiations must be scratching their heads in wonderment as to how such folderol can be taken seriously by one who is as well-informed and well-intentioned as you have always (otherwise) seemed to be.

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  12. I'd call both Jonathan and "anonymous's" (how gelatinous of you) comments both non-denial denials. The simple fact is, the use of written assent, in SAG's case, WAS against CA labor code for not-for-profits (SAG). The lawsuit against the Guild was based on California Code Section 7211b which required not for profits to inform all board members of a motion, action or proposal to be discussed and decided and they are arguing, violated 7211b.

    SAG legal sent the Proposed Constitutional Amendment to all board members recently. It appears SAG is trying to cover its ass by amending the Written Assent so it adheres to the core principle of 7211b. This is ABSOLUTELY TRUE.

    For "anonymous" or Jonathan to say what I write is without merit, is, in fact, ridiculous, and, I GUARATEE you, my source is MUCH hgher placed, than either of yours.

    The W&W's notwithstanding, Ken Howard is proposing, in his Backstage interview, a percentage of gross income. Read it you fool (anonymous). This is the very same idea that came out of the writers strike, got picked up by Jonathan, and one that I personally agree with.

    So, "anonymous" YOU are a higher source than the SAG president? He DOES suggest merger is NOT a priority. He DOES suggest a new form of compensation mirroring gorss percentage. Jonathan handel DID call the "sunset clause" a "meaningless fig leaf" and, he's right.

    The ONLY question is how much weakness the moderates can get away with, because, sure as the sun rises, the AMPTP has NO INTENTION of giving back ANY of the roll-backs and give-aways that have DECIMATED the finances of SAG middle-class actors.

    "Anonymous" - WHOEVER you are: here is the accuracy of the three posters here:

    ME

    Jonathan

    YOU

    I GUARANTEE it. You don't know WTF you are talking about.

    Matt Mulhern

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  13. Well, Matt, You have never known WTF you've talked about for years and years. If you think that this blog will become another receptical for your pea soup exorcism, you are wrong as always.

    Considering your recent track record in SAG/AEA or any union politics, I'd advise you not to quit your day job.

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  14. Matt -

    You said "against CA labor code for not-for-profits (SAG)": actually, as I said, the code section you're citing is part of the Corporations Code, not the Labor Code.

    And, it's bizarre and ironic that you call Anonymous "gelatinous," i.e., spineless, considering that you were anonymous and used multiple pseudonyms for months until you accidentally outed yourself on my blog and asked me to delete the post in which you did so, in order to restore your anonymity.

    JLH

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  15. So there it is, Sick Puppy. Everyone knows your sad game, Mulhern: Fired, tired, and never again hired. You've bullied your way to nowhere. You have no access to anyone "in charge" - at SAG or anywhere else. You wanted to stack yourself along side of the failed Alan Rosenberg - and you've succeeded! And, incidentally, if the GoF lawsuit ever has any success whatsoever I'll wear a dress the next time I appear on Letterman.

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  16. It looks law will take its own path. There is nothing one can do about. It is still going on.

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  17. Oh, yes - there most certainly IS something "one can do about" it. The plaintiffs could withdraw their lawsuit. If they truly had in mind the well-being of the union (of which they are elected directors) that's what they would do. But they don't. So they won't.

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  18. Matt says he 'GUARENTEE'S' something. Wow. Let me get out my check book.

    The "rollbacks?" what "rollbacks"? There were none.

    But for SAG's stupidity in beginning a battle with AFTRA and forcing them from the table, the contract would have been much different. Once the wheel was broken, we had to go to the pit and repair for the next race. SAG did this to itself. Everyone but you knows this, Matt.

    Judging how wrong you've been about running for the SAG NY Board, mouthing off, "ruffling feathers" and behaving baddly on a job, calling the press to plead your case about your sad sad dismissal, I agree with Anonymous. Don't quit your day job.

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  19. The written assent issue was "cured" almost the next day by the National Board. They voted to fire D.Allen with the full board and it passed.

    How could the majority who wished to fire D. Allen send the written assent when they would have to send it to D. Allen to distribute?

    "Mr. Allen, we would like to fire you. Since we just went through an 28 hour filibuster where the chair(Rosenberg) twarted the Rule of Order and blocked bringing this to a vote of all Natinal Board we are using Written Assent. Mr. A, please distribute this resolution the rest of the Board?"

    Why has no one brought this up? They did what was Constitutionally allowed. Membership First passed many a vote by not including NY or Regional Board members by only contacting Hollywood MF members. Then they would say, "We don't need your vote to pass this. We have the majority."

    Fact.

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  20. Well, I guess Jonathan knows better than the people actually IN the lawsuit, and their council, (who, I guess, is keeping this suit alive simply to humiliate himself as a fool), what the law suit consists of.

    "anonymous" clearly outs himself as Tom Ligon, a first class coward. It only takes one, two posts, at best.

    Here is the claim: CA law says (and said) written assent must be sent to ALL board members. Not just the ones who will vote for it. Simple, undeniable, and NOT done in SAG's case, despite the SAG constitution WRONGLY allowing it, in violation of the law, at the time. That they re-voted is beside the point.

    Would the U.S. congress debate an issue, then only allow the "yes" votes to vote? No. Case closed.

    What will the new judge do with this? Who knows? But it is still alive, and there is NO DOUBT the original act by the moderates in NOT sending the written assent to ALL board members, was against CA law. The SAG constitution let it happen, and that is why Duncan Turncoat Ireland is NOW attempting to UPGRADE the SAG constitution to COMPLY WITH CA LAW. He's attempting to cover his own ass, because, "ignorance of the law is no excuse" and, guess what, Duncan Turncoat Ireland, SAG COUNCIL, was IGNORANT OF THE LAW in allowing it to go through.

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  21. The "filibuster" myth will continue, along with all the other revisionist history of the moderates. That story is old and boring, but, nonetheless deserves an accurate telling. The reason the "filibuster" happened, perfectly legal by the way, is because Gabrielle Carteris LIED, and the moderates attempted to fire Doug Allen day one, NOT, day two, if they still were inclined, instead of allowing him to conduct Guild business and make one last attempt at unity to avoid the DISASTROUS 2009 TV/Theatrical contract.

    But, they couldn't wait. They just COULDN'T keep their powder dry, which INFURIATED Doug's supporters, (approx. HALF THE BOARD) who, again, perfectly legally, denied the idiot-people the chance to execute him a day early. Too bad for the moderates, and, apparently oh-so-mind-bogglingly-frustrating.

    How wonderful they were caused such pain and anguish! One hopes much more of that is in their immediate future, as it surely will be, given the Dung Pile of a contract they agreed to, and now have to get SAG out of, apparently, they seem to think, without an SAV or strike - I wouldn't put Ken Howard in this camp, because of his own words in Backstage, but we'll just have to see if he grows a spine, won't we?

    Again, Jonathan, care to comment SUBSTANTIVELY on how SAG is going to get your idea - gross percentage across all platforms - lifted from the WGA strike - and one I certainly agree with, without an SAV and/or strike, in 2011?

    And I notice, again, neither of you answers much of substance: Ken Howard SAID "merger is NOT a priority" in his Backstage interview. Response? (crickets). Ken Howard SAID he'd push for "a piece of the total pie" which is a percentage of gross profits, first raised NOT by Handel but by the Writers, THEN by Handel. Response? (crickets). Those two FACTS alone imply Howard IN PUBLIC STATEMENTS is leaning more MF than moderate on the two SINGLE biggest issues the moderates elected him for. Response? (crickets).

    The reason I know it's idiot-boy Ligon (among others) is his saying there were "no roll-backs in the 2009 TV/Theatrical contract." This is a talking point that emanates from his diseased and addled mind on a regular basis.

    Loss of clip consent, loss of product placement protections, loss of force majeure, the insertion of a non-union space into SAG's contract for the first time in it's history, (and spare the idiot-boy rambling, Ligon, of previous non-union work being sanctioned by SAG contract in this way - it makes you go from senile to demented) - a HUGE diminution of residuals, which are clearly on a path to extinction, according to Handel's OWN WORDS (shall I look it up and reprint it Jonathan?) thanks to the moderates.

    These are "not rollbacks?"

    And PLEASE, Jonathan, again, hoisted on the petard of your OWN WORDS, care to comment on the sunset clause being "a meaningless fig leaf?" Do tell - HOW will the gelatinous moderates overcome THAT one? What will the invertebrates say when the big, bad AMPTP decrees - "Sunset Clause? We don' need no stinkin' Sunset Clause!" - as you and I BOTH KNOW they will? (crickets)

    Say it a thousand times Ligon. Then have another spoonful of pureed peas. Choo choo.

    Be as condescending and foolish as you like. THAT'S the story.


    Matt Mulhern

    p.s. I won't honor idiot-boy Tom Ligon with a response to my personal life, except to say, I was not fired for "ruffling feathers" or "not performing professionally." You can look at the AEA's resolution of the case, and the NY Times retraction of that noise for clarification on that Ligon, you utter scumbag. AEA says I was fired unjustly, Hartford Stage refused to contest that. End of story.

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  22. Nice demonstration of a diseased and adled mind, Mulhern.

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  23. Hi -

    I was just pointed this way.

    Hey, Matt - you're really obsessed with me, aren't you, buddy?
    Love you for revealing your problems in such a way.

    Hope everyone else is as happy as I am.

    Celebrate. You too, Matt. Learn.

    Tom

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  24. No, Ligon, you were already here. You poor, senile man. Again, no answers, no substance, just... flatulence and incoherence.

    Jonathan, it would be SO interesting, to try to actually answer, in your infinite, AMPTP-leaning, "I have a law degree and you don't" (why then the AWFUL predictions and the TERRIBLE advice?)anti-MF wisdom, some of the questions I pose above. They are tough ones, yes? And I am not in the position of needing to answer them, since, you know, I was never in favor of the actions taken in the first place by the moderates you so helpfully (oy) advised.

    And you so faux-innocently ask: "what now? Any ideas?" As if you yourself didn't advise and encourage the complete black hole SAG finds itself in, thanks to the moderates.

    Matt Mulhern

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  25. Matt -

    Reading your comments is like listening to a lacquer LP. You really do take me back to an earlier day - fall 2008, to be specific, when I wrote:

    The actors’ blogosphere seethes with resentment, and the entire SAG ecology hurtles along on the denigration express, where name-calling and fear-mongering abound, endless blog comments are the norm, and calm analysis is in short supply.

    ----

    In other words: Give the invective a rest.

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  26. Well, what you think is interesting, I guess, ....but:
    a) I just got here.
    b) I am not poor.
    c) I am not senile.

    But you're right about the fact that I have no answers. I don't pretend to, and I never said I did. I realize you can't understand that.

    Plenty of substance though - that's how I help run the guild. I know you don't understand that.

    Flatulence? Sometimes. Incoherence? Why not, from time-to-time?

    It's funny that you spend your time doing this - - - what? "Blogging?" I would think you'd be out trying to repair your reputation. It seems like no one anywhere wants you around. This comment field seems just the backwater for you. Have fun.

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  27. Ligon - you "help run the Guild?" Does the CIA instruct you through the chip in your head to "help run the Guild?" I have heard, repeatedly, from the highest sources, they won't let you anywhere NEAR even the NY board, and you AGREE with them, THAT'S how crazy you are. The last time I saw you "help run the Guild," you were babbling, literally incoherently, at the mic at a NY division meeting. Rosenberg was actually straining to understand what you were even SAYING, let alone if there was a question in there, as were others on the panel. There was no response. They just moved on, like a poor (as in "to be pitied") homeless man had somehow gotten a SAG card and had something to say. To suggest I "blog" ("blog? what's blog?" says Ligon) when you do nothing BUT BLOG, on the vipers den, Sagwatch, and anywhere they allow your drivel, (essentially nowhere else. you're obviously on your best behavior here, but you'll fall apart eventually) is hi-lar-i-ous. You're a cancer on the union and you need to go far, far away. We wait, patiently, for that day.

    Jonathan: regardless of the three card monte "he's SO living in the past" avoidence it is apparently in your best interest to invoke, let's keep it simple, and treat your "audience" to some short questions and hopefully, if you can bring yourself to take responsibility for past, provable, statements, predictions sentiments and obvious lobbying on behalf of UFS and their AMPTP-leaning agenda (why lobby for those in opposition to the AMPTP, right? Better to be seen as AMPTP-friendly for a lawyer in the entertainment field).

    So:

    1. You called the "sunset clause" a "meaningless fig leaf." What do you propose SAG negotiators do when the AMPTP treats it that way in the 2011 negotiations and bull rushes them on the status quo on fixed new media terms? Please be realistic and answer the question, knowing, as you do, that is pretty much what will happen.

    2. You agreed with A-list talent "this is a terrible time to strike, during the worst finanacial crisis since the Great Depression" and yet, Hollywood had a MASSIVE year - in fact a RECORD year. "We" saw that coming, the PRECEDENT being, the entertainment business (movies and TV) does well during down times as it offers a cheaper entertainment alternative. You were WILDLY wrong, and, in fact, it would have been the EXACT right time to stiffen at the negotiating table. What say you now?

    3. What IS your response to Ken Howard's Backstage interview, where he says two rather shocking (not to us, but, then again, we've been saying it for two years) things: "merger is not a priority" and "we want a piece of the total pie" which very closely resembles the WGA suggestion, your suggestion, and mine.

    4. The SAG "gang of four" suit is still alive for the EXACT reasons I previously wrote above. Since the SAG constitution was NOT in compliance with CA law in its use of written assent by the moderates at the time, and Ireland is looking to upgrade the SAG constitution to bring it into compliance, what do you think the plaintiffs should receive for this clear misuse of the written assent rule? It had never been used to displace a sitting SAG elected government, or replace a negotiating team with a "task force." All rather unprecendented, and, apparently, against CA law. What say you? Please be specific.

    Matt Mulhern

    I await your wisdom.

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  28. Just to be clear: In SAG President, Ken Howard's own words:

    "I try not to talk about merger so much because it's something in the future and it's what I ran on, and it's what I want to have happen, but there are other things we have to do first. "

    So "merger is NOT a priority." He suggests a reurn to Phase 1 is all he thinks is do-able this time around (2011).

    Isn't that an apostacy to the "moderate" movement?
    ------------------------------------------------
    "I hope we come to the realization [that] the way that profit and money is accrued doesn't have to do anymore with the delivery systems involved. It's just so labyrinthine once you get into all the various ways that things are being delivered and how it's getting paid. It's a mess, rather than putting it under one umbrella and saying, "From all this, take a certain amount of profit.

    Now, I know that's a whole new approach and that's a whole different way of looking at this and a whole different kind of language, but it's a whole different business now. I mean, look how fast it's changing in terms of how we're going to receive a television show. We know that it's going to happen sooner than we think. It's not going to be five years from now. Before that, we're going to be sitting down and hitting some button on our television and what we're seeing is going to be coming through the Internet. We all know that. And here's the beauty of it: It works for us. I'm convinced, if done right, it works for the Screen Actors Guild and it works for performers and actors."

    So, generally speaking "a percentage of gross profits across all platforms."

    Again, does ANYONE think the AMPTP is going to grant that, minus an SAV or a strike?

    Is it the right thing to do? Of course! Is it a CENTRAL MF TALKING POINT?

    Of course.

    So, apostacy number 2
    ------------------------------------------------
    "You can't be too specific. If you get too specific, nobody's going to want to go along with that. There has to be an aspect of generality to some of this language. However, if management says, "Absolutely not in any way do you get to share in this whole new area of media," well, that's a dumb way to start. You gotta crack open the door."

    Now, this, to me, shows the depth and breadth of Howard's cluelessness. "The language can't be specific?"

    Huh?

    Do you think the AMPTP is going to agree, in writing, to some "general" profit sharing agreement across all platforms?

    I have heard, repeatedly, that when Ken Howard DID show up, as a board member, at meetings (infrequently) he was often seen, in the back, with his feet up, reading a newspaper.

    He ALREADY has a weak track record showing up at board meetings - and now? HE'S THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNION.

    One wonders whether, now that he, sort of, you know, HAS to study the issues, at least, you know, a LITTLE, he is reaching some LOGICAL conclusions, that - OOPS!!! - just happen to be in DIRECT OPPOSITION TO THE MODERATE'S STANCE.

    Finally, if you go back in the recent Sagwatch archives, you will find the link to this Backstage interview has no comments. ZERO. Why?

    Because what he is saying has literally left them speechless, that's why.

    It's like when Reagan nominated Souter to the bench and he turned out to be a liberal. OOPS!!!

    Matt Mulhern

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  29. Matt, It wasn't Tom Ligon but I who brought up the "ruffling of feathers." I saw no "retraction" and it matters not. The story is well known.

    You don't have a clue how deluded you sound and how your attempt to shove your demented point of view down our throughts only proves the rumors to be true.

    Merger is a priority to both SAG and AFTRA. Didn't they call you about it? Hmm. Maybe you should fire someone.

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  30. First, Ligon, I NEVER said I "ruffled feathers" or, for that matter, much of ANYTHING Patrick Healy attributed to me. He had told me the piece would be on this particular type of abuse of actors, so, when it turned out I was duped, and somehow became the focal point for an article about "the use of prompts," along with Matthew Broderick, Angela Landsbury, (who went on record saying she was "greatly surprised by this actor's firing and that it was unjustified"), Vanessa Redgrave and others, a number of which won Tony Awards while using earpieces to feed them lines or prompters feeding them if necessary. Landsbury said, among other things "this is part of the theater, Olivier did it at the height of his career. The examples on stage, film and TV are ENDLESS. I was using a prompt in ONR five-minute scene IN PREVIEWS of an underrehearsed section of NINE HOURS OF THEATER. You don't really work, in the theater or anywhere Ligon, so, your bile is, well, everybody knows you are certifiable.

    The... retraction? Re-phrasing? Whatever you want to call it, below, with commnets included, appeared in the NY Times ONE DAY after I called Patrick Healy and threatened him with a lawsuit. The ONLY person Patrick Healy actually quoted, was Harry Weintraub, LORT council, and lawyer for Hartford Stage. Michael Wilson, coward that he is, has hid behind "no comment" for the entire episode. Patrick Healy of the NY Times, PROMPTED Harry Weintraub, since he could get NO OTHER QUOTES, who spoke without ANY first-hand knowledge of the events, or, permission from Hartford Stage to be quoted as to anything regarding the entire episode. HE knew, after the article was printed that HE was vulnerable, legally, so he shut his trap pronto. He was not authorized to speak as if he knew the facts, he simply was pressured by Mr. Healy for some quotes, ANY quotes, to keep the jumping off point for Healy's story about, "the use of prompts," alive.

    In fact, there is NO rule in ANY Equity or LORT contract against the use of prompts. Michael wilson and Hartford Stage crawled away from this fiasco one step ahead of a lawsuit, and they know it. Had they agreed to arbitration with the AEA, an equity lawyer would have torn them apart, specifically Michael Wilson. THAT'S why they, faced with arbitration and the negative publicity that would bring for Michael wilson and the production, they IMMEDIATELY capitulated, and, on top of compensating me immediately after the firing for my contractual four week out, BUT declining to cite "cause" (as was my, or any actor's right to know by AEA rules), they paid me the rest of my salary BEYOND the contractual four week out.

    The whole thing was an utter fiasco for Hartford Stage and for Michael Wilson.

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  31. From the NY Times:

    "Actors’ Equity Association said Friday that Matt Mulhern has been compensated for pay he says he was owed. The actor, Matt Mulhern, was appearing in Horton Foote’s “Orphans’ Home Cycle,” In a statement, Actors’ Equity said that it had filed for arbitration with the League of Resident Theaters, which includes Hartford Stage, and that the claim would be resolved. Mr. Mulhern said in a video posted on YouTube that he had been paid the week’s salary that he said he was owed."

    comments:

    I was never aware that perfection was a requirement of live theater. It seems that Mr. Elliot’s disclaimer at the beginning of the production was sufficient to let people know they were not going to be seeing a fine tuned, well rehearsed performance.


    As a child, I saw several performances of “Camelot” with Richard Burton. He was neither drunk, nor senile, yet at least once a night he had to be fed a line.

    If we were capable of perfection 100% of the time, this paper could save a lot of print without corrections and retractions.
    — Kathleen


    There is rarely sufficient rehearsal time in today’s theatre, and previews are a continuation of the rehearsal process. Acting in a rehearsal hall and performing a role in public are not the same thing, and transition time is and always has been needed to negotiate the difference. What people are willing to pay to witness and engage in the rehearsal process is up to them.
    — Charlie



    Shawn, that’s ridiculous…it’s the first preview of a play still in progress. Actors forget lines sometime, especially if they’re just being written the day before. It happens. I think their offer of a ticket to this show once it’s opened was very generous, and your just a cranky ingrate for not accepting it.
    — peterg



    As an ex-stage-manager, I can tell you that prompting is a very common occurrence and there’s no shame in it. For various shows, I helped actors say the right lines in all sorts of ways: prompting by ear-piece, from the audience, from stage right, taped bits of script in shoes, etc. Nowadays, many plays only have three weeks of rehearsal before they go into previews, not enough time to learn and re-learn text and blocking. I feel badly for Matthew Broderick, a skilled theater actor, who’s being maligned for a common practice.
    — VS



    I saw Matt Mulhern in parts one and two of “Orphan’s Home Cycle” and all I can say is, they lost the best actor in the cast. He had two scenes as two different characters, including the one he was supposedly using the prompt for in the preview I saw, and they will remain with me for the rest of my life. He was incredibly moving and all too human on the stage. I felt like I was eavesdropping rather than watching a play. Shame on Michael Wilson and Hartford Stage for treating him so badly.
    — Regina Santos

    My wife, my son and I saw The Starry Messenger on Wednesday, November 11th. We all laughed a lot and thoroughly enjoyed it in spite of its length. The chagrin about Matthew Broderick’s missing lines is unwarranted - the play was in preview. In live theatre mistakes are made - that’s part of the excitement.

    — Ira Perelson

    Matt Mulhern

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  32. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

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  33. Ligon: "got balls?"

    Didn't think so. I'd hate to kick an old man's ass, but, ID yourself, and I'll consider it.

    Matt Mulhern

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  34. Matt, who said that the "real reason" you got fired was because of the fact that you couldh't remember your lines? Most of us know why you were fired and it had nothing to do with "lines." The reporter couldn't get one quote from anyone? Not even an actor? Hmmm? Could that be because they, AEA, Hartford, and every actor, stage hand, had another reason for not getting into your little pool of acid?

    Hmmm?

    What you posted is nowhere near a retraction. Your YouTube (giggle) "thing"? You removed all negative comments.

    Funny how actors talk to one another outside a show isn't it?

    I am not Tom Ligon and I won't identify myself to someone like you. Kick an old man's ass? Classy Matt as usual. And why you were yoiu fired?

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  37. Matt, no one is going to jump into your childish gotcha's your re invention of history, your mistaken, illogical delusions.

    Do you really think no one at SAG and AFTRA is talking about Merger?

    Your entire "I wasn't fired story" was off topic, your insult-laden questions are off topic.

    Johathon has reported on a subject. He has stated his views as an attorney. He has taken into consideration the present climate (ONE WITH AFTRA) as opposed to 2008.

    A labor action could have been done in 2008? WITHOUT AFTRA? At a time unions were taking unpaid days off so they could qualify for healthcare (construction unions, electricians, autoworkers)one of the two actor unions goes on strike without the other? That does what? It makes SAG look as foolish as it was. Maybe we can shake off that reputation.

    Matt, you're all washed up here. You can't argue, you don't listen, you create out of the air this nonsense "Ken Howard...alienating his base???"

    You threaten lawsuits each and every time someone contradicts you. How can someone who does that be taken seriously? Obviously the members of SAG know better than to vote for you at all. That's why they didn't.

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  41. When did this become Matt Mulherns vomitorium?
    Yeah Matt, like anyone (AEA, Hartford) wants to endure you're "defense". They'd have to supply a boatload of TUMS.

    It seems that every human being has "defamed" you at one time or another. De Fame...as in without fame. Insulting SAGWATCH (because they banned you there for bad behavior like another site).

    This is Jonathon's blog. He has the right to engage and answer questions with true and honest debate. He has the right to wash the dishes if he feels it's more productive than wasting time speaking to the snow. Or reacting to your insults and re writes of history. Takes too much time and energy to someone who can't listen. Listening is the key to taking direction, by the way.

    And you're wrong again, Matt. It's not Tom at this end.

    The insults about Paint Your Wagon are crude and personal. Stating your were uncermoniously fired from a great show is stating the facts. See the difference.

    What am I doing explaining to a person who things the world is defaming him.

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  44. You guys are fascinating.

    Gonna change showbiz, are ya?

    Sure glad ya got so much time on yer hands.

    Rave on.

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  46. No one is answering YOUR questions Matt, simply because YOU do not matter. You are irrelevant. You are beyond boring, beyond annoying. No one answers your questions because you can't communicate, you don't know how to ask sincere questions in a grown up manner or discuss anything.
    You are simply the "Defamed One" the "pitiful patsy." A smear of dirt upon one's shoe.

    No more of this for me.

    Jonathon, this thread is done, put a fork in it. Thanks for all you do for us by your column.

    When will you "get it?"

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