SAG-AFTRA Merger: Series (4 of 5): Our Money

I’ve saved this for next to last, because I do think in the end, this is the subject that has divided us more recently on the subject or concept of merger as opposed to the reasons that lead to the creation of the two different unions. Because so many years have passed and the differences were so stark for so long, it is hard to imagine them together. And again with the number of dollars that have put away into Pension and Health plans it becomes a daunting task to consider how, why or what is best. But again, the great equalizer is technology, and what I first want to discuss is the amount of work potentially BEING LOST the money potentially BEING LOST because of fragmentation of contracts…in the face of New Media.Think about New Media…just sit, and think about it. This CAN’T become another “Primetime TV” situation where you have SAG and AFTRA separately moving away from one another regarding two New Media contracts but supposedly collectively bargaining can it? OY please tell me no. This is a crazy disturbing thought that we’re about to again repeat the very SAME mistake I pointed out in Part 1. The New Media concept can potentially apply to EVERY single type of performer…period. The next contract we negotiate needs to be uniformly and to me I’m not sure we can afford to have SAG or AFTRA have the option to walk away from the other. Yes, I know it is offensive to all at SAG that AFTRA did so on the Theatrical Primetime, but again, how far do ya wanna go back, how much do we have to keep pointing fingers, barking and fighting. Technology is bringing the WORLD of entertainment to the palm of every human’s hand…I recommend we consider this in terms of contracts. Because at some point New Media will increase so much that we’ll be shocked in just a few years how lucrative our contracts and therefore PENSION money can come from them.

Do bear in mind that I would LOVE to have an impact study done but at least a feasibility report exists and don’t forget that dozens of conglomerates have merged retirement plans in this country, so it makes it a bit less of an overall concern moving forward based on how the potential new constitution is constructed. It isn’t like it is something that has never been done in American history. Is the effort to merge these two easy, uh NO. But this doesn’t have to be rushed into place even IF the merger vote passes.

Remember folks that between these two Unions there are a number of different contracts. Those contracts ALL remain in force AS IS, until their maturation date…and the potential new SAG-AFTRA would then negotiate “new deals” as they come up. Be reminded, the first one up, is our Commercials contract. So you can stop asking or wondering what happens to our agreements. Did I like AFTRA going off and negotiating a Primetime TV contract no their own in 2008…uh NO. But again, I remind us all, we should NEVER have gotten to 2008 with (2) different Primetime contracts when digital is being used in TV, movies and everywhere else in New Media. We can spend all day, more years, etc. arguing over how we got here but technology is making so much of our differences a non-conversation…we MUST have this conversation.

NO one is going to lose their pension and both unions have enough funds to not forfeit or weigh down the concept and actual execution of merging them. I think the thing, that yes I am HOPEFUL about…is that so much of the current leadership is vested in SAG…just as I am. It is similar to the question about air travel, when you have to ask yourself…do you think the pilot wants the plane to crash? Of course not, and I don’t believe that the current leadership and the folks who will likely continue to be VOTED in as the potential first set of officers and national board of a potentially new union would also likely be very vested in SAG. So it is difficult for me to be so fearful of all of them not handling the process with incredibly careful and intelligent hands, and bear in mind, they’ll be under a huge amount of oversight and scrutiny in doing so.

Yes, you’ll continue to hear the argument that we CANNOT merge if we don’t know and I get it. However, some of the greatest accomplishments and achievements in the history of this country have been done with partial information…it just depends on the integrity of purpose. I know, and have an immense amount of respect for many of the people on BOTH sides of this argument and conversation and I know that they feel strongly about their feelings and opinion. I do think there is a LOT of conversation and difficulty ahead if this vote passes, but I am more afraid of the TRAIN we can’t stop (technology for the world) then I am of our own people…in one room figuring out with actual experts, how to best get it done.

There is also the fear of there being this huge rush on people joining AFTRA to get into the union before this vote goes down, but again, this just hasn’t happened. Yes there has been a spike in the Hawaii local because of Hawaii 5-0 but beyond that it just isn’t a reality. And again, I still look at the wrecked voucher system allowing an addition of SAG members that I don’t feel make SAG any stronger about 90% of the time. Don’t forget 80% of the pilots this year having gone to AFTRA, …because they’re perceived as less likely to strike and more flexible with their contracts, especially in basic cable and even with after 4 years of 80-90% of pilots going to AFTRA, we still have not seen a ridiculous explosion.

Remember I am totally against an open union without distinct qualifications, and this merger agreement closes it up just like SAG’s current criteria, but also remember that we are a business of new faces. It’s easy for producers to go “non union” since there is access to talent. But that talent ultimately wants to make movies and television so when we get them off the street and we can make more new media projects and more signatory projects then the producers have less access to non-union talent. This door will only be open for a few weeks so I just don’t see it as much of an issue as it relates to this conversation.

One of the other sticky issues has been related to compensation citing that Roberta Reardon, is paid, on which indeed I had actually had my personal facts corrected. The current SAG language has been interpreted to allow for reimbursement policies that include child-care and other items that are outside of what might traditionally be considered expense reimbursement.  So it is theoretically possible that the SAG National Board could interpret this language to allow someone to be reimbursed for lost work, for example, but I don’t know the particular history of this issue in the SAG boardroom and whether such an interpretation was ever considered and rejected.  While the language in the SAG-AFTRA Constitution contains the possibility that the National Board could determine it to be appropriate to pay some form of compensation to a board member or officer, it is also important to note that NOTHING in the Merger Agreement or the Constitution actually provides for anyone in any elected position to receive compensation. Therefore I do think If you spent 40 hours a week, away from home, unable to work more at one’s career at all traveling the country in service of your union, I could see some sort of compensation being arrived at, so long as it had an end date.

Additionally, while I do not personally know Ms. Reardon, she is not the President of SAG, nor its 1st National VP, so I know that moving forward if this vote goes through I don’t believe this becomes much of a conversation. But at the same time, and respect to someone that I don’t know, it is true that IMDb credits do not include one’s voice over career. I still believe the predominant number of key positions moving forward with SAG-AFTRA, would be held (as elected both by ballot and convention) by mostly well-heeled professionals familiar with the plight of work and pensions…of actors.

And finally I did ask, why the resistance to do a P&H Impact study? Now there will be a ton of resistance to the lack of an answer. Well what I’d at least like you to consider is the fiscal responsibility and a responsibility to honest debate and conversation to you and for us. An actuarial study costs upwards of millions. If this were performed simultaneously while working on a merger plan and any SKEWED or partial inaccurate part of the study were to be leaked which somehow unfairly killed the merger then we would have wasted millions of union members’ money. It’s very important to understand that the UNIONS have X number of Trustees to the Plan. There is an equal number of Trustees on the Management side. Remember that management doesn’t want us to merge. Why would they? When they split us it is far more beneficial to them when you really think about it. We all know that from the most simple move from one apartment to another, moving in with a new girlfriend or boyfriend, there are indeed certain things you simply must do in a particular order to be able to focus your time and resources on others. I know that an actuary study is possible, so that means that I also know, there is a solid reason why not having done one fully on this subject to date can only be because of two things: Fear that it’s doable, or the politics of fear. Think about it.

My best always,  Kevin E.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *