Wednesday, October 1, 2008

SAG: A Half Step Closer to a Strike

SAG moved closer to a strike today, but not quite as far as some predicted. The guild’s negotiating committee, which has the power to send a strike authorization referendum to the membership at large, instead elected to recommend to the national board that it send out such a referendum.

That board is sharply divided, with a newly-elected Hollywood moderate group, coupled with their New York and regional allies, having a razor-thin margin of control. But that faction, Unite for Strength, may not be united on the issue of strike authorization. They ran on a platform of merger with AFTRA, and didn’t address how they’d approach negotiations.

The new members are also less experienced in the parliamentary procedure used by the 71-member national board, and they’re up against the fact that the board is chaired by the guild president, who’s aligned with the hardline Membership First faction that also controls the negotiating committee – and other levers of power, such as the National Executive Director and the separate Hollywood board.

But perhaps the toughest problem for the Hollywood moderates is that if they oppose a strike authorization, they risk being blamed by Membership First in the next elections (11 months away) for the flawed deal that SAG will probably have to accept under any circumstances.

Thus, it would come as no surprise if the national board voted to send a strike authorization to the members. That authorization would require an affirmative vote from 75% or more of those voting in order to pass. (Note — not 75% of the total SAG membership, as some outlets have mistakenly reported.) If the turnout is low, as it was for SAG’s push poll (10%), SAG might achieve that threshold — as it did with the push poll (87%), albeit on a different question (whether to keep negotiating, not whether to strike). The board might then vote to take the union out on strike even if only a few thousand members voted for it.

It seems bizarre that SAG might strike over gaps in the new media template, since the medium will account for very little revenue over the next few years — and the gaps will, accordingly, probably be of little consequence over the next three years — and do so even as the economy as a whole deteriorates, but that’s entertainment, apparently.