SAG Members Rally Before Contract Talks

Negotiators from the Screen Actors Guild sat back down to contract talks with the Hollywood studios today. But before that happened, the Guild's leadership and hundreds of members jammed into the square in front of its headquarters for a raucous rally. They attacked the contract agreement that the other actors union, the American Federation of Television Radio Artists, or AFTRA, recently negotiated on its own. KPCC's Brian Watt reports.

Brian Watt: It's hardly sisterly these days between these two so-called sister unions.

[Crowd at rally chants "Vote no! Vote no!"]

Watt: Unless you mean the kind of sisters that share a room, but bicker and needle each other all the time. For almost 30 years, they negotiated jointly with the studios. But this time, the little sister, AFTRA, decided to split off. In lengthy remarks, SAG's president Alan Rosenberg picked AFTRA's deal apart, saying it doesn't go far enough. He started with the issue of product integration.

Alan Rosenberg: In the AFTRA deal which has just been approved by the AFTRA board, an actor can walk onto a set of a movie or TV show without prior notification and be directed to advertise anything and everything that the employer wants him to advertise. (Crowd boos)

Watt: The AFTRA deal is on its way to the union's 70,000 rank and file members for a ratification vote. But 44,000 of those members also belong to SAG. SAG's leadership wants them to vote down the AFTRA deal. SAG leaders say it's not a vote to go on strike, but to get AFTRA back at the bargaining table and strengthen the leverage of both unions.

Roberta Reardon: The Screen Actors Guild leadership is being extremely disingenuous in this.

Watt: Roberta Reardon is president of AFTRA.

Reardon: This is the first time I have ever heard of one union using members' resources, members' money, to try to defeat the contract of another union. It is reprehensible.

Watt: Reardon said AFTRA's lawyers are looking at legal ways of retaliating against SAG's attack. Full disclosure here: I'm a member of both unions. And so is Ed Asner, aka Lou Grant. He was president of SAG from 1981 to 1985. Like the actors who showed up for the rally, he says he'll follow SAG's current leaders' guidance.

Ed Asner: When a union performs ignorantly or evilly, and that certainly has happened, not in SAG, but in other unions, it's incumbent upon the members to rise up and oppose it and fight it.

Watt: The current contract of both unions expires at the end of the month.

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