Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Why I'm Voting "No" on the SAG-AFTRA Merger Part 1
I did my first Screen Actors Guild job in 1979 when I had one line in “More American Graffiti.” I played a hippie in a commune who refused Candy Clark’s plea for money to bail her boyfriend out of jail. I remember the line well: “He still owes me 50 for that key I fronted him.” What Acting! Bravo!
I joined AFTRA a couple of years later when I did a commercial under that contract. So I have been a proud dues-paying member of both performers’ unions for over 30 years. And I must say that both Unions have done well by me; I have made a living under SAG contracts for nearly 20 years (not to mention the great health benefits I got and the Pension I am getting), and AFTRA was instrumental in recovering money from a producer who used tape of me in a TV show without my knowledge or permission. I am glad to be a member of both esteemed organizations.
Yet I am voting “No” (two times…one ballot per union) on the current SAG-AFTRA merger proposal. Now, make no mistake, I am definitely NOT against the merger of the two unions in theory. But there are many many reasons why I think this specific proposal is not only bad for the Screen Actors Guild members, but bad for Middle Class Actors all across the country as well.
On the surface, merger of the two actors unions sounds like a great idea. In fact, the surface idea of it is one of the main talking points that the pro-merger side is touting. What could be better than all actors in one Grand Union, working together, battling Management for the betterment of its members? Solidarity forever, Together United, We’ll Never Be Divided, The People Yes!
Unfortunately, there is one large detriment to the specifics of SAG merging with AFTRA in my view, and it flies directly in the face of Union Solidarity.
For those unaware of the specifics of the two actors unions, AFTRA not only represents actors in television and radio, it also represents Broadcasters: On Camera News people, Sports and Weather Casters, Announcers, etc. And putting aside the question of whether Broadcasters’ work and contract problems are the same as Actors, putting aside the question of whether Broadcasters would have voting rights on Actors contracts, or whether they would even honor an Actor picket line, I have a huge HUGE prhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifoblem with the current paradigm of Broadcasters and Union work.
Simply put, Broadcasters work off the card (non-union) with impunity. AFTRA never punishes union Broadcasters for working non-union shops (and there are plenty of non-union shops: CNN, Fox Sports, etc). I am unwilling to consider merging the Screen Actors Guild, whose Global Rule One is Don’t Work Non-Union, with a union that refuses to enforce a similar, fundamental definition of what it is to be in a Union. I forsee a weakening of union standards, and probably union effectiveness, if it’s accepted behavior to work non-union.
[we will provide Gil with space to air more reasons later - ed.]
here's part 3