FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

On the Prospects for a SAG Strike

Despite their tough talk and ominous saber-rattling, everyone expects the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) to eventually reach a settlement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), rather than go on strike, as they’ve threatened.

In fact, everyone is saying that there’s virtually zero chance of a SAG walkout.  Why?  Because, according to conventional wisdom, Hollywood is suffering from serious “strike fatigue” (the recent writers strike lasted a debilitating 100 days) and because the nation’s economy is in no condition to heal itself, much less absorb a major industry shutdown.

Also, there’s the follow-the-leader or “inertia” argument.  It’s irrational and glib, but the advice SAG has been getting goes something like this:  The writers have settled; the directors have settled; AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) has settled; and now, even though you didn’t get everything you wanted, it’s your turn to step up to the plate and take what the AMPTP has offered.

Simple as it sounds, it’s a little more complicated than that.  What SAG is asking for in these contract negotiations is not only vitally important for building a foundation for future bargains, it’s eminently reasonable.  While actors work in the same industry as writers and directors, the requirements and needs of each guild don’t necessarily coincide.

Unlike writers and directors (or radio personalities), actors make their living off their images.  Getting paid for the studios’ use of those images makes perfectly good sense; allowing the studios to use those images at their discretion, free of charge, without some structured form of compensation, makes no sense at all.

The Actors also realize that, despite their denials, the Producers have the extra money to pony up.  The fact that the AMPTP is pretending to be nervous, claiming that it’s too early to know where this so-called New Media market is headed, and is peddling doom and gloom predictions for the entertainment industry, is almost insulting.

Just because management (in any industry, under any conditions) can always be expected to downplay its profitability during contract negotiations doesn’t make the AMPTP’s poor-mouthing any less annoying.  Global demand for American movies is staggering.  In the last 5 years, going back to 2003, Hollywood has earned more money in foreign markets than it had in the previous 70 years combined, and those markets are continuing to grow exponentially.  The entertainment future is gloriously bright.

But SAG does have a slight problem, one which—because it’s an internal, parliamentary issue—hasn’t drawn much attention.  According to SAG bylaws, a full 75 percent of the membership is required to give strike authorization.  That’s an extraordinary mandate, especially considering that most unions require only a simple majority (50% plus one) for a strike vote.

Getting three-fourths approval for anything is a formidable task . . . from deciding on where to eat dinner to what color carpet to put in the living room.  Think about it.  Most U.S. presidential elections fall into the 55-45 percent range; a 60-40 percent victory (e.g., Reagan’s 61-39 defeat of Mondale) is considered a landslide.

Accordingly, for Congress to pass a bill, a simple majority is required, and for the Senate to approve a treaty, a two-thirds vote is needed.  The only time a three-fourths mandate is required is when they do something like add an amendment to the Constitution.

A strike vote is easy to obtain, almost automatic in fact, when the membership sees it, more or less, as a “symbolic” gesture, as a means of provoking the company, of scaring them into sweetening their offer.  When a strike vote is seen as symbolic, it’s not uncommon to get a 90 percent mandate.  But when a vote is perceived as being the prelude to an actual strike (which it will likely appear to SAG members), it’s a whole other deal.

Indeed, it’s that very dynamic that causes management to hope that the union negotiating team takes an inferior final offer back to the membership and has them vote on it, rather than have the guts to call a strike on their own.  Politically, from the union’s point of view, it’s safer to let old-fashioned democracy prevail and place the decision in the hands of membership, even at the risk of them ratifying a patently inferior contract, than to call a strike on their own.

In any event, it’s going to be very interesting to see how SAG negotiations proceed from this point.  The lines have been drawn.  The Alliance is showing no signs of being willing to come off what they’ve called their “last, best and final” offer, and SAG leadership, so far at least, is sticking to its guns, promising to take this thing all the way.

Ultimately, whether it’s a strike vote or an actual contract presented to them for ratification (with or without the union’s recommendation) it will be up to SAG membership to decide their own fate.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright and writer, was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail