Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SAG-AFTRA Joint Bargaining: AFTRA Hesitates, Slightly; and More

An AFTRA committee, expected to recommend joint bargaining with SAG, instead referred the matter to a subcommittee, the Hollywood Reporter and The Wrap reported. Curious about details, I contacted a source close to AFTRA. (SAG and AFTRA declined to comment.)

The committee that met yesterday is, in fact, AFTRA’s Strategy Cabinet, a key, 25-member committee that advises the AFTRA National Board on important matters. The Cabinet is chaired by AFTRA president Roberta Reardon and includes AFTRA officers and others.

As the Strategy Cabinet’s action indicates, there wasn’t 100% agreement in the room regarding joint bargaining. However, reports my source, there is nonetheless a sense of inevitability that there will, in fact, be joint bargaining. AFTRA wants to develop a framework that it would be comfortable with.

Fortunately, my source indicate that this framework would probably entail only the three well-understood concepts that I discussed in a recent post: (a) 50-50 representation on the negotiating committee (and equal voting strength for all members of the committee), (b) a non-disparagement agreement, and (c) working out the negotiating schedule to accommodate both the joint bargaining (SAG’s bargaining is scheduled for October 1 – November 15) and AFTRA’s always solo “front of the book” bargaining (that portion of their Network Code agreement expires November 15).

As a caveat, the subcommittee to which the Strategy Cabinet referred the matter has not been appointed yet (this is expected in the next few days, and Reardon is expected to be chair), so it may have other thoughts. In any case, these developments make it all the more important for SAG to make decisive moves at its National Board meeting this Sunday towards joint bargaining.

Two other interesting notes from the Strategy Cabinet meeting. One is that AFTRA is continuing with an organizing training program in all Locals whose purpose, I’m told, is to build strength at the bargaining table in AFTRA’s existing areas or jurisdiction, including by increasing AFTRA’s share of work in a variety of areas. Those existing areas include some where AFTRA’s jurisdiction overlaps with SAG’s – scripted basic cable; new media; and video games – as well as other areas that are AFTRA’s alone.

In addition, the Cabinet created a national Actors’ Equity Cooperation Committee to explore with Actors’ Equity areas of mutual interest and concern. This could be a very early step towards merger; who knows? In any case, cooperation, and perhaps a merger, make sense from three very different perspectives.

First, at the level of expensive stage productions, a number of these are mounted by studios (Disney) and/or based on movies. Cooperation or a merger would allow actors to present a united front during bargaining. Bluntly put, the more sources of media conglomerate revenue that actors can threaten, the more leverage they have.

Second, at the level of 99-seat productions (in Los Angeles, this is the 99 Seat Plan, commonly referred to as Equity waiver; in New York, the Showcase Code), cooperation or merger might result in allowing small producers to exhibit pay-per-view tapings on YouTube or other websites. This could provide producers – and actors – with a new source of revenue, but is currently forbidden by Equity. Instead, promotional tapings of portions of a show are allowed, but not taping or exhibition of an entire show, to preserve the uniqueness of a live experience. Discussion between AFTRA and Equity might ultimately persuade Equity to become more comfortable with new media, and new revenue sources sought by entrepreneurial producers. The other benefit to actors is, of course, more exposure for their work, which is in fact the purpose of the 99-seat arrangements.

Finally, of course, merger would eliminate duplicative dues payments and presumably make it easier to qualify for health insurance and pension for actors who work in both television and live stage. The Equity pension plan, like AFTRA’s, is a defined benefit plan; interestingly, Equity also has a 401(k) plan. (Equity declined to comment for this story.)

Looks like AFTRA may be slowly bringing actors towards the day when all three performers unions merge, though there are certainly many steps between now and then, if indeed it ever happens. Interesting times.


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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Actually, the article is from late last week. It's at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3ia5c65e5d8c5aad6757d22e77c396f16c.

    Comparing the AFTRA leaders to cockroaches is juvenile and unnecessary.

  3. Mr. Mulhern reveals himself as a shivering shill for the old-guard Membership First actor/realtor/masseurs who can't let go of that old bone - the chewy bitter flavor of AFTRA-bashing which lost SAG hegemony in TV this year. Learn, Mulhern...Sit...now Stay! AFTRA President Roberta Reardon and Exec. Kim Roberts-Hedgepeth are level-headed unionists who deflected the ill-advised bully-boy tactics of former SAG prez Rosenberg & Exec Doug Allen. For that you sling the epithet, "cockroaches"?!?
    You give the term partisaner a bad name, Mr. Mulhern.
    Reading your thoughts is like listening to old out-of-tune lieder from the Bund in San Bernadino in 1942.

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  5. Billy, Jonathon, and other sane posters:

    Mr. Mulhern has been banished from at least two SAG/politics blog sites for his bad behavior, insults, lack of knowledge about anything SAG and his rather questionable ability to think as a rational law abiding citizen.

    Now, he seems to call out some of us to engage him in discourse...more like allow him to spit all over us. To engage him in a rational discussion, my friends is impossible considering his history.

    That Matt can compare respected leaders to a cockroach, no matter what his back pedaling, simply proves his unworthiness to be part of any discussion in this forum.

    Matt, try to get a job. If they haven't heard of you...try Oklahoma? (most in NY theatre have gotten the scoop.) In some cable show, maybe you'll be successful at landing a day player or background role.

    Other than that, anyone with any sense won't respond to your questions, comments, insults or pleas. Jonathon certainly has more sense than to respond to the likes of someone who would make the comments about the President of AFTRA that you just vomited.

    Matt. It's over. Really. It's over.

  6. Anonymous is right, I don't have the time to get engaged in every discussion Matt desires.

    That said, I don't block or delete his comments because my inclination is towards freedom of speech and open debate. Comments to posts over 7 or 10 days old are moderated, and I refused to permit one of Matt's posts that was filled with invective and potty humor. Newer posts aren't moderated, and post immediately.

    I'd also point out, though, that every now and then Matt posts respectfully and coherently. For instance, his post that begins "In today's Hollywood Reporter" is not objectionable on these grounds. I disagree with most or all of it (and, no, I don't have the time or inclination to get into a debate), but it's calmly stated. Matt, you would do your position more good to stick to this style rather than the rants and insults that you more commonly use.

  7. There is a hot cardboard box full of crazy, and it has been set on fire, and it exists on the internet, mostly in the comment section of blogs.

  8. re: Matt's assertion that "Billy" is Tom Ligon...Sorry, Matt, to your dismay:
    1) I'm definitely NOT Tom Ligon (I'm in the Hollywood Branch)
    2) There are thousands of us who have your number and are all-too-familiar with the sad, failed, testosterone-misguided drill of the Membership First schlock troops.
    I guess it's just a dream that you'll simply go away, get that real estate license and give up the shrill drill...In the same way it's only a dream that the watergating, phone-bugging, defaming Republican operatives will quit their dirty tricks and go away. But the truth will out, and come September 2010, Membership First will be on the Hollywood Board in such puny numbers that maybe that job with Coldwell-Banker (and I ain't talkin' a commercial acting gig) might seem to be looking pretty good.
    Suggestion, Matt: take one last listen to the barkingcybersagdog and try substitute teaching in the schools. At least you'll be doing something constructive.

  9. Good post, nice blog. Thanks for share good information.

  10. Bart, Please don't subject our children to that!! What did they do to deserve such punishment? Such potential damgage?

    Matt, you have no place in adult society, on an intelligent political discussion board, in SAG politics or on a professional tv/film or theatrical production set. There is simply no room for your childish, destructive, crap.

    Judging from the highly regarded theatre that fired you, your reputation may be difficult to repair at this point.

    The story about your firing is obvious. Your own You Tube clip says it all. You were just being "Matt" and the world won't tolerate it. The world certainly won't pay someone and tolerate it. The "world" fires people like that.

    For God's sake, Matt, go lick your deep deep wounds. Do not for a moment think the rest of us will let you get away with your insult laden remarks without rebuttal. You've lost your "juice" long ago. You aren't a "series regular" therefore, you don't get a "pass."

    Gonna sue me for Libel, Defamation, Slander? Go for it. Have at it. Whatever.


  11. "There is a hot cardboard box full of crazy, and it has been set on fire, and it exists on the internet, mostly in the comment section of blogs." - agreed, and I love the metaphor.

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  13. Matt -

    I don't mind when you call someone foolish or deluded. When you call someone "[D]epends-wearing" and other such things, that goes too far.

    I don't have time to get into extended debates. I need to make a living as well, and teach my UCLA Entertainment Unions and Guilds class (where, btw, I'll be showing videos from both sides, when I get to the class on the SAG stalemate).

    MF folks don't answer my emails anymore, so it's difficult to get their reactions to things.


  14. Wrong.

    The Negotiating Committee will be reconstituted - and it won't be with 8 MF screwballs. Thank God.


    You don't have "information straight from the top," Mulhern - because you don't have access to "the top." The Top wouldn't give you the time of day.


    There will never be "personal invective" coming toward you that would ever balance what you have already put into play, Mulhern.

    Wrong on all counts. But don't get me wrong. Keep it up. Keep exploding your intestines on these comment pages. It's all being carefully recorded and will follow you for the rest of your life - right along with all of your other failures.

  15. Mulern, are you kidding? Why should anyone answer your questions? Don't you understand why? Because you aren't considered worthy of a response. What does it take to get through to you, Matt. You are considered "not able to have be in a discussion with." No one responds to your questions. Why? Because you have already branded yourself as...well as someone to be avoided.

    My Gosh. You STILL don't understand this? Are you that dim? You've been dismissed from other forums, fired from a good ensemble, AEA retreated as soon as possible from having anytihng to do with you. What the hell do you need? A map?

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  19. Matt

    Yawn. Keep asking and responding to yourself. Have a good time.

  20. Again, run from answers - run!
    Matt Mulhern

  21. Nobody is running from answers. It's simply this, Matt. No one is responding to YOU.

    Let's recall your run for the NY SAG Board. Was it the LOWEST vote getter? Or was it the second to the lowest? Can't recall.

    It must be a pain to be considered TOTALLY IRRELEVANT. That's not running. It's avoiding a germ. Avoiding the flu. Staying AWAY from filth.

  22. Stay buried in these pages, Mulhern - it's where you belong.

  23. Can I point out that when I clicked on Bart's name above, his favorite book, as listed on his Blogger page?

    "Confessions of a Union Buster"

    See for yourself!

  24. And "Billy" who echoes "Bart" - his favorite book when you click on his name and are directed to his Blogger page?

    "Confessions of a Union Buster."

    Same guy.

    "Bart?" "Billy?"

    You have to print the same name if you have a Blogger account, because people can click on it and be directed to your Blogger page.

    So, if you wish to appear to be two different people, then, you might wish to open two Blogger accounts under different names, or just post as "anonymous."

    Just trying to help.