Sunday, March 11, 2012

SAG/AFTRA...actors protest Union merger! Martin Sheen heads up lawsuit in local courts!

Two major entertainment unions are circling their wagons and gearing up for a showdown in Hollywood.

The crux of the conflict?

A proposed merger between the two entities known as SAG and AFTRA.

Although "on-camera" talent (actors, dancers, and musicians) are usually represented under one umbrella union in other countries such as Canada and England (ever hear of Equity, folks?) such is not the case in the good old U. of S.A..

SAG and AFTRA officials have elected - for the most part - to hunker down and shut each other out - barring a court order - and despite the obvious perils of of refusing to adapt to change (especially in the burgeoning era of rich media in the marketplace-at-large).

The threat of non-union workers - and runaway production - also looms large in these tough economic times.

Are the negotiators' heads in the proverbial sand???

Wouldn't a strong National union (and solidarity) be preferable to the two fractured ones struggling to survive on their own in this uncertain climate in the entertainment business today?

And, therein lies part of the rub, fellow actors.

Yes, I am a member of both SAG and AFTRA.

It is not surprising to hear that over the years, TV and Film producers have played-up the rift
between SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) over the jurisdictional issues, with the ultimate aim of manipulating contract negotiations in their favor.

But, when it comes to the nitty-gritty - moolah may end up being the "end all" - to cure all the ills, just betcha!

For example, according to court documents filed last week, a SAG/AFTRA merger will rustle up 17% more in dues revenues than those currently being collected by the unions separately.

"The amount of dues currently projected to be received by SAG and AFTRA for the billing that begins on May 1st is projected to be 6 million dollars per month. Thus, SAG and AFTRA will lose 6 million dollars each month that the merger is delayed," lamented SAG's Chief Financial Officer, Adrianna Ozzanto.

Nonetheless, a posse of disgruntled actors headed up by actor Martin Sheen (Charlie's dad), are pinning their hopes on a lawsuit filed in the local courts to block the proposed merger.

Highly-vocal protesters - members of both Unions - have also taken to the streets (they usually picket every Thursday in front of the SAG/AFTRA headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard) to put the spotlight on the pressing professional, legal, and ethical (?) issues.

According to opponents of the merger, not enough research has been done to determine the future outcome, in respect to the healthcare plans and/or pensions.

"There has not been any due diligence," one protester accused.

Others allege that Union officials "in the know" have not been forthcoming with all the facts.

Some also swear that resistance to the proposed merger is trigged by "elitism".

For instance, a few actors pulling-down million-dollar salaries (the "movie stars" who are a minority in the union ranks) don't want to be lumped together with "lowly" radio announcers and TV Broadcasters (news anchors, etc.).

Say what?

News at 11!

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