Dissension Over SAG's Strike Authorization Plans

The week's off to a tough start for the leaders of the Screen Actors Guild. The Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers placed an ad in Hollywood trade papers yesterday, attacking Guild president Alan Rosenberg. KPCC's Brian Watt reports that high profile SAG members from coast to coast are also questioning the leadership's moves toward a strike.

Brian Watt: It's become a war on two fronts for SAG. First, from the outside: the ad from the producers alliance defends the final contract offer it made to SAG by debunking claims SAG's President Alan Rosenberg made in rejecting that offer.

Rosenberg calls the offer the "beginning of the end of residuals," while the ad says that for the first time, it offers actors residual payments for films and TV shows streamed on the Internet. Jesse Hiestand is a spokesman for the producers alliance.

Jesse Hiestand: Frankly, we're offering and creating an entire set of new residuals here for SAG members. Most of which have never existed under the SAG contract.

Watt: In a statement, SAG calls the ad a "great fiction." The union goes on to refute the producers' specific claims. The ad appeared in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter and it'll run later this week in Backstage – the trade paper for actors. Hiestand says the producers alliance wants SAG members to study the offer for themselves.

Hiestand: Because we think that once they see that we are increasing things like residuals, and jurisdiction, and wages, they'll question why the union is telling them otherwise.

Watt: The questioning has already begun – and that brings us to the war within SAG. Richard Masur was president of the Guild for four years. Now he serves on SAG's New York board. He told KPCC's "AirTalk" that SAG's current negotiators are wrong to hold out for jurisdiction and higher residuals on lower-budget productions headed straight for the Internet.

Richard Masur: Why on earth would we expect to go into a brand new area of work with our employers when the writers guild, the directors guild, and AFTRA have all accepted deals that acknowledge the fact that this is a brand new area and we have to move incrementally in this?

Watt: Masur said he wasn't speaking on the New York board's behalf. But that board has called on SAG to cease its plans for a strike authorization vote next month. The New York contingent says negotiations with the producers alliance may have failed – but since then, so has the economy.

As those board members described the call for a strike as irresponsible, they also proposed replacing SAG's negotiating committee. SAG President Alan Rosenberg replied that the New York board's rhetoric is subversive and destructive.

Now, he's got to respond to a letter from more than a hundred well-known actors – including George Clooney, Jason Alexander, Diane Keaton, and Lucy Liu. It says this is not the time for SAG to participate in creating more economic hardship.