Monday, February 18, 2008

SAG Splintered Just in Time for AMPTP Contract Talks

Here's the irony of it. Do you see the irony of it?

There is a debate on, apparently fueled by a 900 signature petition by SAG members to change eligibility for SAG members to vote on issues, things like I suppose, whether to go on strike or agree to a new contract with the AMPTP. Sound familiar? All of this comes on the heals of the forced WGA contract by the AMPTP, and with SAG about to go into early talks with the AMPTP on their contract. which expires in just a few months.

Of course, if the voting membership changes then the outcome of the vote changes. So if you were in the AMPTP, a business group bent on marketing and statistical analysis, what would be in your best interest here? Suppose you ran a few numbers and found that if the eligible voters happened to be restricted to a certain few who had a steady and healthy income, the chances of those voters going for your AMPTP deal would greatly increase. After all, the real deal with union contracts is to look out for minimums, which really only affect new and soon to be new members.

Yeah, I see the irony of it.

The irony of it is that proponents of the 900 (with ranks diminishing) claim that limiting voting rights to a select few will make the union more cohesive with less splintering and results more effective, since those select few are the ones most likely affected; while what this really does is splinter the union into voters and non-voters. This breeds animosity as can be seen with the comments in reaction to Nikki Finke's blog post featuring the pro-0.75% argument, championed by actor Amy Brenneman.

That's the irony of it.

On the other hand, if you read the rational view by actor Ron Livingston:

The strength of our union is not just the actor who says 'I really want this job, but I’m not doing it anymore until you pay me what I’m worth.' It’s the ten actors next to him who say 'I really want that job, too, but I’m not doing it, either, until you pay him what he’s worth.' And that’s a sacrifice, too.

You'll find comments there largely in favor and in support of his take on it. It's hard not to argue that everyone in the union deserves a vote. They pay dues, they should vote. Besides anyone involved with Swingers has to be way cool.

The real kicker for me is, who decides who gets to vote and who doesn't? Ms. Brenneman says:

"We are NOT asking for an earnings threshold. The number of days workednot amount of money earned—is the common test for 'affected' members. For work like ours, it must be averaged over a time span long enough to accommodate the inevitable 'ups-and-downs' of our business. The Equity standard is one job (typically at least 6-8 weeks) within the previous 6 years. I believe SAG should consider something similar – perhaps an average of 5 days of principal work and/or 15 days of background work per year, over the previous 6 years. (Three background days has been used as an equivalent of one principal day for union entrance.) Of course, the 6 year period would be prorated for newer members.

"A standard like this—for contract voting only—will broadly include members with working knowledge of the contract and some concrete stake in it. And because it eliminates the influence of those without such a stake, it will give the 'affected' members—those who depend on the contract and know it best—an effective voice. This gives maximum credibility to the vote and strengthens our hand in negotiations, which results in better contracts for all members, present and future.

So who says it's " perhaps an average of 5 days of principal work and/or 15 days of background work per year?" How about perhaps an average of 6 days of principal work and/or 16 days of background work per year. Anyone for 7/17? Maybe 4/14. 1/11 might be nice, for the AMPTP anyway. Less people to bribe.

Depending on the numbers selected, whole different groups become voters or non-voters. What the real question here is, 'how can we get away with disenfranchising voters?' So much for democracy, or even the illusion of it. At least the WGA had that.

But here's kicker number two. Before Ms. Brenneman states the above, she first must rationalize her logic with this gem:

"The SAG constitution requires that contracts be ratified by 'the membership affected thereby.' It doesn’t say 'the entire membership' or 'all members in good standing' as it does for voting on officers. Nor does it refer to 'potentially affected members'.

So my question to her is, "What is the distinction between 'the membership affected thereby' and 'potentially affected members?' " There can't be one because anyone who falls into either category could just as well fall into the other category depending on the time of day you make the determination. Someone doing just extra work could get booked and suddenly become voter eligible within a week or two. What about someone just coming off a gig and finding they haven't worked the required time as of a day ago? A decision is made and they aren't eligible. Then what if they book something the next day that makes them eligible after two weeks?

They have a word for this kind of faulty logic. It's called bullshit.

So what you end up with is going back to square one, where you have people voting on things that may not affect them, and other people not able to vote on what does affect them.

Now of course we all know no one would even do this, but what if a studio decided to book or not book actors based on how they expected them to vote on something like a strike? This would certainly put them is a good position to manipulate elections invisibly. Criminal genius

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