PREFACE TO "IS SAG-AFTRA GOOD FOR AMERICA" -- THE VIEW FROM 2003

IN 2003 my Dante vision of hell in Hollywood was a merger of the talent unions with the teamsters and non-talent unions in a block, with teamster power backing strikes for union jurisdiction increases, using brutish force as if to help the vastly disorganized, individualized, entrepreneurial actors and writers achieve aims they didn’t want or need to satisfy larger union goals.  Already in 2003 I knew the SAG representatives had joined the Teamster’s to use them as bodyguards, basically, since SAG reps were so hatred on sets they feared to go there.

 

After costly personal experiences with the WGA and SAG both as writer and actor and producer, I figured that the “creatives” being wrapped in the arms of the AFL-CIO mentality (I’d read that 26 US Attorneys investigating Hoffa had been reassigned during the Bush administration, as I recall) would be like Ellen DeGeneres wrapped in the arms of a WWE wrestler who doesn’t think she’s funny.

 

If the United StatesTeamsters were to join a SAG-AFTRA strike in sisterly support, in theory, the entire US truck network could shut down.  Or only Hollywood.  A paranoid feast for the professional in me, wanting to make movies in the future without interruption or insurrection.

 

I worried that teamsters driving actors to the sets of films written by writers not yet on strike would chill the windfall-backers needed for movie making, that drumbeats drive off investors who don’t care whether writers are “middle class” or not (when the hell did it become necessary or even possible for screenwriters to become middle class or any class to satisfy union precepts of what writers should be instead of what they actually are, which is Other than economic data).

 

If the television actors also went on strike simultaneously with the movie actors and broadcast announcers, who would tell the news?  Write the news?  -- Allow the news that’s written to be read as written without input from the WGAw's Tony Segall, Etc. who had been lying to a New York Judge to escape my lawsuit.

 

-- So I sent the following memo, you might call it, to the few people I knew at the time, like Dennis Hayden and several actors, also probably Dave McNary who would’ve written back “Thanks.”

 

Tom Bower wrote a pertinent critique.  Otherwise no response except from Dennis.

 

The letter is ten years old, but I say it still applies.

 

Back then, the proposed name for the SAG-AFTRA merger was “AIMA.”  There was even a constitution drawn up between the two unions, the AIMA Constitution.

 

Today it’s called SAG-AFTRA.

 

Now my latest worry is that the sister unions and the sister studios under MPAA backed by the teamsters link up with the big brother agencies like Ari’s WME and create a bar code for every face and voice and sentence and song flowing through CISCO or VERIZON on the internet, collecting “dues” from the artists who would post videos or songs and removing the posts of those who don’t join the studio-union-agency-network-provider supercorp system.

 

Yeah, I know. Ridiculous and speculation, no doubt.

 

Probably I should relax. China will bring it all into focus later on.

 

Below was my speculation in 2003… (I have added "SAG-AFTRA" as the merged unions did not use the AIMA moniker; they also destroyed the iconic lovely Tragedy/Comedy mask historic SAG logo in favor of kitchen detergent graphics.  No longer that pretty blue face on the residual checks; no longer the residual checks, either.)

 

 

FROM THE DESK OF:

 

 William Richert

Santa Monica, California

fcbfilms@hotmail.com

 

MAY 29, 2003

 

TO:  ALL INTERESTED PARTIES

 

 

                          The coming “monopoly” of a MegaUnion.

 

SUBJECT:   THE MERGER OF SAG AND AFTRA:  WILL AIMA [SAG-AFTRA] BE GOOD FOR AMERICA?

 

An actor/writer/director thinks the merger of the two most powerful Hollywood Unions will unleash a potentially destabilizing and revolutionary force capable of spiraling beyond the limits of members’ civil rights.

 

“Partnership for Power” or Instrument of Repression:  ALLIANCE OF INTERNATIONAL MEDIA ARTISTS [SAG-AFTRA]:  Trustworthy, or Anti-Trust?

 

There has never been an Entity on Earth with the Power of the envisioned Alliance of International Media Artists.

 

It is no wonder the President of the AFL-CIO flies to Los Angeles to “advise” the Presidents of SAG and AFTRA.  President Sweeney will become the true leader of the most pervasively controlling and politically powerful union in the history of the world.  The question is:  will this be good for the country?

 

CREATING THE BEAST

 

There is a beast emerging out of chaos in the darkness with 13 million heads and it is heading first for Hollywood, and then the world.

 

The name of this creature is AIMA [SAG-AFTRA], or Alliance of International Media Artists.  It will be composed of those familiar unions SAG and AFTRA connected to dozens of other unions, including the Teamsters and the multitude of Unions comprising the American Federation of Labor numbering millions.

 

The power of this beast will be unlike any power known before on earth, and this is not exaggeration.  Neither the Radical Muslims or the Cold War Russians could shut off American radios or cause our country’s television sets to go blank, but AIMA [SAG-AFTRA] could do it in a heartbeat.

 

If it comes into being – and the Presidents of the unions involved are engaged in all kinds of feverish activities to ensure that it will --  this union will control the people who read the news along with the people who play the heroes and the villains and the people who turn on the studio lights and drive the trucks and funnel the electricity into the homes and farms across America.

 

If AIMA [SAG-AFTRA] chooses to strike, and there has never been a union with power which has not chosen to strike, AIMA [SAG-AFTRA] could shut down the nation’s communication systems as a whole and prevent the citizens from receiving news, vital transportation information, entertainment and simply the flow of human voices over the many devices we now rely on for communication.  AIMA [SAG-AFTRA], like all unions, provides its own police and its own judges and its own Court of Appeals within the framework of its Constitution.

 

Not every Union member is aware that Union regulations and arbitrations can override Federal and State law.

 

I myself discovered this the hard way: when any worker signs a Union contract, he or she gives up certain rights in civil lawsuits;  her or she actually loses civil rights.   Thus AIMA [SAG-AFTRA], with stronger prerogatives over broadcasters and television journalists than have ever been known or enacted, will legally be outside oversight of the U.S. court system when conducting many of its activities.

 

Of the 13 “Goals” the new Alliance of International of Media Artists has set for itself, nearly all have political and social implications.  The formation of an entity like this one enters new and unmapped territory, just as the overnight creation of a new Nation creates new territory.  And this Nation has an Army of 13 million workers.

 

It is not an unthinkable leap to conjure a near-universal nightmare wherein SAG-AFTRA demands a strike for its film actors; and at once SAG actors are  joined in sympathy by the Teamsters and then AFTRA joins in too in “sisterhood” and the next thing we know, the tv set in the living room is dark and the tv set in the bedroom is dark and there is nothing but canned music on the radio.  A blackout of broadcast communications in the United States would be a chilling work stoppage of democracy’s life blood:  communication between citizens.

 

Until the present moves by President Sweeney at the AFL-CIO, who appears to be the most senior advocate and relentless sponsor of this merger,  a legal shut-down of the flow of information in America would be unthinkable.  After 9/11 there is almost nothing that is unthinkable. If there were controversy or violence – remember, at least one man died in the last SAG strike against advertisers – the FBI could be called in by the Justice Department to enforce the rights of the interstate strikers.  As even non-SAG members were brought before “Discipline Committees” during the recent SAG strike, it is not hard to imagine a world where listening to a radio would be considered scab subversion, if there were stations to listen to during a radio strike.  Anyone attempting a private broadcast who was a member of AIMA [SAG-AFTRA] or any other AFL-CIO affiliate could be brought before Union juries and blacklisted forever from holding any future union job.

 

This happens today with SAG and AFTRA and the Teamsters and it could happen in that near future should AIMA[SAG-AFTRA] take charge of the Hollywood Unions, lining them up along with all the other Affiliates of the AFL-CIO throughout the United States.

 

The merger between SAG and AFTRA is called a “partnership for power” but it is much more than a partnership, since 13 million OTHER workers will be joined together with AIMA [SAG-AFTRA].

 

This is a quasi-government with legal powers even Washington is denied, and without the built-in court protections afforded non-union citizens.  I remember James Hoffa saying how the Teamsters could shut down the roads of America and therefore the ability of the country feed itself; the very roads of America would be part of a siege.  This was the Senior Hoffa’s measure of Union power, and his Union is just as powerful today.  But that’s nothing compared to controlling Radio and Televison and Film.  SAG already has the power to shut down film production and series production and television commercial production not only in the U.S., but under Rule One, across the globe.

 

AFTRA, when it has struck networks, was only able to shut down parts of news operations.  That’s when we discovered how important our newscasters are, and news writers are, and a free flow of information is.  During a strike by the 200,000 AIMA [SAG-AFTRA] members, the shut down could be total.

 

Teamsters would guard the gates to protect SAG workers, whom they represent. AIMA’s [SAG-AFTRA’S]most powerful CEO will be called Executive Director, and his or her power will be granted by an entity known as the Council.  Now, this is not a benign entity if you consider what could happen if this Council decides to start a war for any one of three Affiliates, a war of course, involving financial benefits to its members. This Supreme Council controls what goes before the voting membership, and has the Constitutional power to overrule the Affiliates.  It is not unusual for a SAG strike to last five months or more.  One doesn’t have to look very far at the abuses of power in today’s world to imagine what might happen if AIMA [SAG-AFTRA] were to use its power without concern for the millions of others who depend on television and movies for art, information, and livelihood.

 

AIMING AT THE BODY OF AIMA [SAG-AFTRA]

 

This organization, heavily promoted by SAG and AFTRA, would start out with roughly 250,000 members.  That is a small number when AIMA [SAG-AFTRA] is matched against the other AFL-CIO “Sister” unions, but these 250,000 “performers and artists and broadcasters” help create and articulate and communicate the information needed for the function and survival of our country, our culture, our society and even the human species.

 

Even to contemplate a blackout of the airways in a national broadcaster strike is to contemplate a darkness darker than a dark Bagdad night.  Think of it:  A national black out of information.  Even some newspaper reporters hold WGA or SAG or AFTRA membership. Oh, I may be leaning towards the most dramatic outcome; but it is not science fiction to imagine a strike so big our entire country “goes dark” for days or weeks or even months, leaving a confused and angry and impotent population to look to Congress, while Congress ponders in the dark.

 

We see the tremendous negative impact on the culture of dramatic television programs recently being shut down or hobbled as the result of the threat of a WGA strike.

 

The threat of a strike against all television could provoke such fright in the small numbers of global conglomerates which own these vast communication entities that, out of fear, companies might act against their own best financial interests and, even, the best interest of the public at large.

 

There are 13 political and social Goals listed in the new AIMA [SAG-AFTRA] Constitution which invite activism in places that exceed the province of simple employment protection and collection of benefits.

 

Without their consent, the SAG actors could wind up being part of political demonstrations and movements which have nothing to do with acting or singing but everything to do with dockworkers and port access or assembly lines in Detroit.

 

THIS IS NOT SHOW BUSINESS

 

There is a tendency to think that what happens in Hollywood doesn’t really happen, but is only make-believe, since everybody always seem to be getting richer and younger both at once.  True.  There are extremely rich studios, but only six remaining. They are all owned by giant corporations, of which there seem to be six.  On ET it seems there are only six movie stars.  And pretty soon there will be just one big union to deal with the “employees.”

 

 

DOES ANYBODY KNOW WHERE SHERMAN IS?

 

  This merger raises issues which would most certainly involve anti-trust suits and require Congressional approval if it were a proposed merger of  AT&T and VERIZON; but because these are unions, and there are emotional issues, and the press treats the fights among SAG members with only half a glance.  Actors always make noise, right?  And they’re kind of leftist, more or less, sometimes, especially the rich ones.  What has their business got to to with the “real” world of the big players like Murdock and Turner  Imagine the uproar if a merger were announced between AOL TIME WARNER and THE NEWS CORPORATION!  Whew.  But this SAG/AFTRA stuff?  That’s no five alarm fire… No?  Watch out.

 

 

THE ACTOR LOVES HIS ROLE.  THE UNION LOVES ITS JURISDICTION

 

 

Hollywood Unions often seem to be on the side of the “little guy” -- even while the “little guy” is almost extinct in Hollywood, and while the salaries may have gone up as a result of the SAG strike, the opportunity to get a salary to begin with has gone down.

 

In the world of the union, “Jurisdiction” is the highest goal.  Union Management will al

ways accept the possibility of fewer jobs if their “Jurisdiction” is increased.  The SAG & AFTRA Presidents talk about how they used to fight, but will fight no more.  That would also be true if United Airlines and American Airlines or if the two largest electric companies in the West decided to merge, or if Boeing and McDonnel Douglas wanted to merge.  Congress would demand to know if these mergers beneficial for the citizens at large (American citizens are those folks President Bush likes to call “consumers.)

 

There is no similar media scrutiny of the SAF/AFTRA merger, or loud Senate questions about the role of Sweeney and the AFL-CIO is playing in guiding and structuring this merger, with AFL-CIO lawyers sitting in on SAG meetings and making public statements urging members of both unions to vote yes.  I hope someone “big”  checks into this, and right away, like yesterday.

 

A merger between SAG and AFTRA will create anti-competitive unions with the power to change the course of our society as much as a dam can change the course of a river – no, even more, the power to change ALL rivers.  Make no mistake.  This is not a “Hollywood Issue.”  This is a serious power play, which will impact the daily lives and incomes of people in Los Angeles and New York and Cities In Between in ways much harsher than any foreign war, impacting our homes, our economics and our access to the world at large.

 

 

SHOULD BUTTERFLIES STAY FREE?

 

Along the lines of the Zen story about the way the flight of a butterfly in Japan can affect winds in seaport in Seattle, I happen to think that the SAG strike against giant corporate advertisers a while back took out the kind of risk money that corporations had been using to promote themselves.

 

By not hiring actors, yet still staying in businesses, many companies decided to stabilize their bottom lines instead spending for the future.  This helped to create a psychology of “stabilization” as opposed to “risk.” This led, in my own wobbly conjectural journey, to the bursting of the “bubble” and the fall of the faith in a dazzling future on the part of banks and investors and that’s why our U.S. economy is in the shitter:  it’s the commercial actors fault. 

 

Or not.  How would I know? 

 

The only bubble I really know is the one I write in. Still, it’s a clear glass-like bubble and I sense a new kind of power forming in the AIMA [SAG-AFTRA] Union that could create the formation of a sinister self-interested monopoly on the transmission and communication of human thought in ways no corporation or network would be capable of.  All networks, all cable, all mass sources of information and news would be under the thumb of AIMA [SAG-AFTRA], should the entity decided to use its power to strike.  So far, every Hollywood Union has.

 

FAR FETCHED?

 

Does this sound far fetched?  Hardly. Don’t deduce from this, please, that I think unions are bad.  I just think they have power enough already, and some of this power could be put to use to simply enlarge the job pool.

 

I wouldn’t be able to sit here and write this if I hadn’t had the benefits of union membership and union Pension and Welfare.  But there is already a scandal among the proponents of AIMA concerning the AFTRA pension and welfare program that is being hushed up.  Add to this the recent revelations and internet chatter about multi-million dollar secret SAG studies concerning a downside to the merger, along with “leaks” from Management to Membership.

 

All of this sounds like dirty government tricks, not legitimate Union interests.  I am writing to sound the alarm, to alert some in the media who have voice to urge workers and throughout the industry to pay attention to what is happening under our noses before we are all wearing new AIMA [SAG-AFTRA] hats without knowing exactly how that happened to us.

 

THIS LETTER IS ALMOST OVER

 

To this end I am forwarding this rather long and perhaps repetitive letter to writers and thinkers and journalists whose work I am familiar with, and who have far greater reach than I have. I wish were shorter but I feel an urgency here that I must respond to or forever wonder if I might have made some kind of difference when thinking I could not make a difference.  Along with the foregoing I am sending my last letter to Tom Bower, an actor and producer who cares about SAG and SAG history and even such non-entertaining issues like pension and welfare.

 

Thanks for listening.

Cheers, Bill Richert

SAG, WGA, DGA Veteran

williamrichert.com

 

I sent the following letter to Tom Bower after reading the McNary piece in Variety about SAG protesters.  Tom Bower is one of those SAG die-hards that John Connolly called “outsiders” in your article.

 

TO TOM BOWER

FR BILL RICHERT

 

May 28, 2003

 

Dear Tom,

 

I am sending you some raw data & observations relating to the fundamental changes in the life of Screen Actors Guild members which will occur when or if SAG joins the International Alliance of Media Artists “AIMA.”

 

In the meantime, here are some of my observations about what I believe is underneath the entire push for a SAG/AFTRA merger, beyond the immediate furor over health insurance, which obviously comes only after the ability to work occurs.  You may not agree with me on all this, but since you are the only human to return any of my letters over the past 15 years to SAG, you get to be the audience.  Here are some abridgments:

 

WHAT MEANS POWER?  WHOSE POWER IS IT?

 

1.)   President Gilbert’s constant assertion that SAG is without adequate “power” is not proven by the facts.  Yet getting power is the underlying mover for the entire push for a merger.  It is a bogus issue, and misleads the membership by creating fear.  One only need glance at SAG’s most recent display of “power,” the strike against advertisers, to see that the singular power of SAG not only changed the way advertisers spend money, but impacted the daily lives of the near-million Los Angeles residents who derive at least some income from the day-by-day working commercial actor.  The Mayor of Los Angeles, during the strike, estimated that the city was losing as much as one billion dollars a day.  In ancillary damage, thousands of workers in SAG, AFTRA, IATSE, DAG and the WGA (commercials have to be written) lost short-term health benefits and, in many cases, never found work at all.  The economic benefits to SAG members lost during the last display of SAG power will never be recovered.  SAG has power aplenty without another “power” player.  In fact, if AFRA were such a great “power” partner, there would be no doubts about AFTRA’s pay structures or health plans. If SAG were to burp today about a strike at the next contract expiration, you can be assured that some movies or series set to employ SAG actors would be shelved.  President Gilbert is using a cheap scare tactic when she says SAG lacks power and needs to merge with AFTRA and AFRA. SAG has enourmous power.  It is the use of power that is a question here.

 

WHAT HAS SAG TO DO WITH AFTRA’S LOWER PAY RATES?

 

2.)   President Gilbert's ongoing statements to SAG members, when not addressing the “feasibility” of a merger between SAG & AFRTRA Pension and Health programs, declaim about the inequity between actors being paid for working with the new digital technology and actors being paid for film.  President Gilbert decrys the fact that videotape programs, digital or otherwise, pay less than the actors get for filmed shows.  President Gilbert is generous in her concern for AFTRA taped contracts, who she says are being exploited by the new digital technology.  If her worry is for the jobs of AFTRA actors in the multitude of soap operas and hour-long taped programs which are the mainstay of daytime television – giving jobs to both SAG and AFTRA talent – she must provide evidence of some study of what would happen to the overall employment for daytime actors under AFTRA and SAG contracts if they were to suddenly adopt SAG pay schedules under the new union AIMA.  It is not only the recording medium of digital or film that applies daytime soaps.  Soap actors, by nature of the work itself, must work long hours each day to turn out 60 or 90 minutes of drama or comedy, sometimes getting pages of dialogue the night before taping.  This is a different business than “film.”   At SAG standard rates of upwards of $600 per day plus overtime and meal penalties, and the additional salaries of DGA members and Teamsters which come along with the enforcement of SAG contracts, the entry-level actor on a daily soap could earn upwards of half a million to a million dollars per year plus additional costs for pension and welfare not only for the actor, but the DGA and Teamsters who come with the “package”.  This may sound great on the surface, but you can bet that the number those employed in the casts of Soaps would decline in direct proportion to the profitability of the shows.  This would mean higher pay for a few, but fewer jobs overall.  SAG actors would no longer work in soaps differently from AFTRA because all actors would be AIMA.  Therefore, the decline in work would be uniform, affecting both SAG and AFTRA.  Does this really benefit present day AFTRA or SAG actors?  Downsizing has already happened in the motion picture industry, even as the average studio budgets hit 80 million.  Films that once had giant casts with many roles exist no longer, with the plumb roles and big bucks concentrated in the few “name” actors.  This syndrome could easily alter the whole of daytime television, resulting in soap casts of big names and fewer plot lines employing fewer actors.  Daytime television might even become like nighttime television, with far more “reality” shows employing few or no actors or writers.  WGA already has the kind of cross-jurisdiction President Gilbert wants for SAG.  WGA President John Wells, who engineered a defacto strike of the WGA not long ago, won some gains for writers already working, but hardly any writers benefited because all their jobs disappeared.  There are far fewer writers employed in dramas or comedies on television today than when John Wells started his tenure.  Mr. Wells can argue that in some ways his tactics were a success.  He himself, as a producer, now earns roughly 120 million times the amount earned by 85 percent of the other members of his union.

 

IS FEASIBILITY THE MOST DESIRABLE ATTRIBUTE IN A PARTNERSHIP?

 

 

3.)   In a recent letter to SAG membership, the two Presidents of SAG/AFTRA jointly wrote that the discovery of irregularities in the flow of information about a financial feasibility study called The Mercer Report was actually the result of manipulation on the part of “management,” the Presidents assert wants to scuttle the SAG/AFTRA merger.  In fact the revelations about the Mercer report may from SAG’s own Trustees, whose job it is to represent the membership of SAG above all other interests, including Union management.  The Mercer report cost SAG one and ½ million dollars to prepare (at least.)  Yet, there was no study at all of making the present SAG health plan more viable, or to find ways to bring new investment to Hollywood community for increased work.  President Gilbert and President Connolly act as one in saying that there is “feasibility” in making the merger work.  There is no mention by President Gilbert that the present SAG Pension and Health Fund has been an industry standard for years.  It has been fought for by long years of labor.  It has 209 million dollars in credit.  President Gilbert of SAG, on the same page and in partnership with President Connolly of AFTRA, says that the benefits of the merger will be good for SAG health funds and cost less and provide more.  SAG website documents say that when the Mercer Report is concluded, sometime after the SAG/AFTRA merger, the report is sure to say that the merger was better for SAG members.  This is an affront to decades of work on the present SAG health plans.  It envisions a smooth move in a new union of which SAG will be a 1/3 affiliate and the final control of SAG's money and health plans will reside with a council of three Affiliate Presidents, SAG being only one of them.  It is beyond comprehension why President Gilbert would participate in the expenditure of millions of dollars for an inconclusive study with a disputed outcome, when the money could be better spent making any improvements to the present plan, and searching out creative ways for SAG to extend the present benefits of current members.  President Gilbert and President Connolly have not disclosed the fact that in 2002 AFTRA Pension and Welfare had to pay out $8.5 million in a lawsuit which claimed that AFTRA Trustees were not acting in the interests of the membership.  To anybody watching this or reading about this, it is clear that the merger agenda on the part of the two Presidents is being marshaled along with the support of mostly “silent” other partners, like Sweeny of the AFL-CIO and whoever is the president of the 3rd Affiliate,  AFRA, a union I first heard about when reading the AIMA Constitution.  A future state of these unions, which does not yet exist, nonetheless takes precedent over the reality that SAG today is powerful and healthy, with a cash reserve in its health plan 20 times that of AFTRA.  Any study of the new AIMA Constitution shows that the merger of these three unions will be complex and perhaps more divisive among their memberships than any confrontation with “management/producers/studios” has ever been in history. SAG is a powerful union in its own right.  Its membership is suffering a loss of benefits because fewer actors are working in fewer scripted films or Network series.  When (if) jobs return, so will the benefits for the SAG health programs, which at their best apply only to 25-30 percent of the membership.  Not only does President Gilbert fail to inform the SAG voters about AFTRA's court case, but also for many months the SAG President has shared joint stationery with AFTRA and joint letters with AFTRA.  She already engages in partnership duties and implements policies which SAG members have not yet voted for.  This is a defacto partnership with AFTRA.  This is an abuse of power.

 

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF WEAKNESS

 

4.)   We know from the stock market that there is a psychology of investment and return.  SAG is being demoralized by conflict which increases the feeling of powerlessness among its members.  Said Claude-Levi Strauss, “powerlessness corrupts.” The entire stated motivation for this merger – that it is a “partnership for power” – implies powerless on the part of the participants as separate entities.  “Feasibility” for a partnership is the lowest of reasons for a life-changing bond, in fact it is not a reason at all.  This assertion of weakness is per se a kind of failure of the will on the part of SAG leadership.  President Gilbert says that she and the present Union management will not able to sit across from “management” at the future contract negotiations and feel “powerful,” even with the backing of 110,000 actors.  Apparently SAG will feel “powerful” only with the additional clout broadcasters and newscasters and sportscasters and daytime drama stars, with each of their own differing needs.  SAG's proclaimed lack of power starts at the top, with the elected President.  To say that SAG has not enough power is to create a climate of fear and intimidation among SAG membership, especially when the statement is made by two union Presidents at once, on the same letterhead.

5.)   President Gilbert and President Connolly, by placing their logos side by side on their mutual stationery, suggest that they will be the two partners in a SAG and AFTRA merger.

6.)   This is a huge message, and it is a huge hoax. When SAG joins AFTRA the SAG actors will go from having 100 percent of the say in their affairs to having a 33 1/3 percent actual say in their affairs, and SAG may be overruled.  All power in AIMA rests with the 3 President Council, made up of AFTRA, SAG and AFRA.  The boards of these respective unions may vote and suggest, but the 3 President Council and the Executive Director of AIMA have the final say in all matters.

7.)   And what if, let us say, the coming reports show SAG was better off without the Merger?  Too late.  The only way SAG could find its way out of the grip of AIMA would be with a vote of 66 percent of the various boards and Presidents of the three unions.  However, even this “vote” would be the subject of the review of the Council, which has the final say under the AIMA Constitution.  In short, if SAG signs on to this merger, it won’t be long before all SAG actors will be AIMA actors, and all creative talent will become “performers” with all rights and privileges controlled by the AIMA.  This is a brave new world and as much study should be devoted to the reality of that as to the reality of that one controversial part of it, the health component.

8.)   Not only should there be full and complete disclosure of all studies paid for by the membership of SAG, but there should be full and complete disclosure of all memos, letters and meetings between SAG, AFTRA and Sweeny of the AFL-CIO.

9.)   The SAG membership is being railroaded and needs to know why.

 

FROM ‘THE ALLIANCE OF INTERNATIONAL MEDIA ARTISTS CONSTITUTION’

 

ARTICLE I:  To the extent that any provision of an Affiliate or Local Branch Constitution and By-Laws or Rule conflicts with aprovision of this Constitution and any amendment thereto, this Constitution shall govern. Each Affiliate Constitution and By-Laws and each Local Branch Constitution and By-Laws shall contain a provision to the same effect.

 

D. There shall be three (3) Affiliates of the Union known as the Screen Actors Guild

(“SAG”), the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (“AFTRA”)

and the American Federation of Recording Artists (“AFRA”). Each of these

Affiliates has been created based on the nature of the work performed by its

members under collective bargaining agreements covering such work.

 

  And, if SAG decides it made a mistake and wants to get out of AIMA?  Not a chance:

 

A.    The Union may be dissolved by resolution of the Council only if ratified by a two-thirds (2/3) majority of the Boards of at least two (2) of the Affiliates and thereafter by two-thirds (2/3) of the Union members in good standing voting in a referendum (one [1] vote per member).

 

It ought to be kept in mind that in the above instance of 1 voter per member, SAG members will be in the minority, substantially, as members of only 1 Affiliate of AIMA, that formerly independent group of Actors known as The Screen Actors Guild.  SAG will be no more in charge of its own destiny.

 

It seems to me that SAG should think more than once or twice before signing on to this very binding contract.  Membership should demand and get all related materials, and should know who is really running SAG if the leadership is looking for more “power,” before any ballots are sent out.

 

This June, days away, the “power” in question will appear to be in the hands of SAG voters.  If the vote takes place and is close, then the review of the SAG vote will include forces from AIMA and AFTRA and AFRA and AFL-CIO.  This could put SAG in the kind of situation the Democrats and Republics were in during the last election. There would occur a continuation of the never-ending situation which exists right now: namely, a defacto merger between the Presidents of SAG and AFTRA with the same kind of feeling of powerlessness among the membership. In my view, the vote should be canceled because of the gravity of the unanswered questions.

 

That’s it for now, Tom.  You may not agree with some of these points, but it’s hard not to get all fired up about what is happening to SAG, which is about give up its soul and its heart and its history to become a part of the International Alliance of Media Artists under the umbrella of the AFL-CIO.  The Artist part of the new name may be correct, but this “international alliance” means that SAG will lose autonomy and identity forever. SAG will lose all of its power, fait accompli. That may not be in best interests of the very special SAG artists.

 

Thanks for your kind attention.

 

Regards,

 

Bill Richert

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