SAG-AFTRA Merger: Series (5 of 5): The Future!

So what in the world has all this been about besides, ego, $$$$$, power, and control? Good question, cuz I’m not sure. As stated in Part 1, I’ve never understood why we could not reach a place of truly pulling together sooner OR have clarified differences and separation much sooner as things became more and more muddled after the mid-80’s. But again, that is too late as we’re here and it is TODAY but while we tarry technology, the economy, and everything else moves on. I write this as I watch the Oscars in the Kodak (your name here) theatre. By definition, THINGS CHANGE, as Kodak the film company is of course in Chapter 11.Our industry has elements that shall NEVER change, but many things that do. I have been in Los Angeles since Patty Duke was President. I have watched, engaged, and experienced a lot of changes surrounding this industry, and yet, this situation seemingly feels like the biggest. I need to be sure that I express to you that I can completely understand HOW we can survive without merger. I totally get why we can attempt to leave things as they are, to let the concern over 5500 Broadcasters be the wedge or better yet that we don’t have every “I” dotted and “t” crossed on a sketch Pension and Health plan post-merger…be the wedge. I get how SAG is presented as a union of “just actors” and not “others” can remain, but it just isn’t true. Both SAG and AFTRA have it’s top professionals, but they also both have tons of members that just cannot be used in this argument as “pure actors” etc. etc. C’mon, let’s not kid ourselves, because this is an incredibly passive profession or dream for many and this is a terribly transitory city and profession.

As I have said for years and years, being an actor is one thing, but being a working professional who makes a living at it is an entirely different story. Just because someone carries one of the SAG or AFTRA cards does not ��necessarily” makes them a pure actor who should shun the thought of being associated with or near someone who only sings, or broadcasts the news…for a living. Yes, I do recognize the artistic difference, but they both require talent. So to predicate this argument on that element has never been MY argument and why I have stood AGAINST merger for as long as I first heard it presented to me. It has always been about the plan and the construct of the union itself. Be clear, the Pension and Health plans are certainly part of our livelihood but they’re NOT a part of the Constitution of HOW the union is constructed or run, which is why we have By-Laws and Constitutions.

Merging Pension funds n’ such involves a lot of papers, numbers, fair market values, trustee’s, lawyers, representatives, and crunching lots of numbers. This is not to be muddied or underestimated, but also not politicized just for the purposes of ruin, destruction, divide because it is not an emotional problem it is a mathematical one and it could get done…and done well.

When I look at the FUTURE of life for the actor, much like this year’s national general election for President, I look at where we are today, where we’ve been and what we’ve lost or stand to gain. I want to feel that the next time we step to the negotiating table that our elected officials really can WIN, and I mean WIN BIG. At the end of the day, we need to and I mean BIG. We need not just a collective, but a collective strong clear front heading at you when you’re across the table from us. I would like to see us find a way to get BACK many of the things we’ve lost long before 2008. I want to end admin duplicity, have a complete pension and health plan that considers, covers, and helps us all, once again be flown FIRST class anywhere not just some zones randomly chosen, get back the (8) places studios can go outside of the 30-mile zone (which is 90%) and still not have to pay for a performer’s gas to get there, and get the greatest deal in increases in the history of SAG and AFTRA, as well as maybe the potential reestablishment of an ATA agreement with SAG-AFTRA in terms of our agency contracts.

Because I’m not a celebrity, but a journeyman television actor, my thoughts should be taken from that perspective. I’ve spent time out on the picket lines over the years, and rarely do any of the TOP TOP stars of our profession actually come out. Sure some medium celebs do or some folks who are not as currently hot but part of union/collective power is having 100% of your constituency ON the lines. But you have to remember they don’t have to, because when you make 10 or 20 million for one movie, you do not need a union. Much like the 1% in America, this is the same for our middle class in our unions. The ability to make 50, 60, 70 or a 100 grand as a performer annually without fail is incredibly difficult and it isn’t being made easier by what we’re doing and where we’ve been. Many of SAG’s movie stars are dual card holders. Why? If we only need SAG, why are so many DUAL card holders. Easy answer: technology and types of work. Technology once again has closed the gap, as we’ve watched since the turn of the century that there is FAR less of a gap between doing movies, TV, new media, web series, commercials, etc.

I do know that this series comes across that I’m pro-merger, but it really it has been so much about trying to bring a simple clear voice to a crazy conversation and situation. Since the day I founded The Actors’ Network, I have never told people what to do in terms of the organization itself. I don’t run the organization pushing “Kevin’s opinion about the business as gospel” as an individual actor ON anyone…as a mandate. I’m suggestive, offer my opinion, my experiences and also that it comes from a place of being a fairly successful veteran with balance, fairness and perspective. What I want is for my fellow actors to know WHY they’re voting the way they are and not just say “well, it seems bad” or “we HAVE to merge now” or “I don’t know…it just seems bad” or worst of all just espousing shit that you heard on a website somewhere written by someone with pure agenda, and no perspective.

Make your own decision, but do it with knowledge, no propaganda, do it with your mind with your career firmly in mind, with what you see around you everyday. I owe a world of thanks to all those who have come before me, to those from both sides who have questioned me, informed me, answered me, debated me, given their time to me, and who have given their time to both unions in a way that I never have. But the time I have given has been through this organization…nearly 21 YEARS OF MY LIFE trying to assist an often confused and lost community of artists trying to figure out how to “work” as an actor in Hollywood. The folks in those positions earned the right to have me stand by and listen, stand by and learn, stand by and absorb. I have earned the right to write this Blog, and stand before The Actors’ Network constituency on a weekly basis or any of the other speaking engagements I’ve done across the U.S.

I want you to go to: because this is the site that is LEGALLY held to a standard of vetted information in reporting facts not propaganda or rhetoric.

I don’t care how much you have or haven’t worked, I don’t even care if you’re a union member or not, what I care about is that you care more about the ENTIRE concept of what is being discussed not just some momentary thought over a coffee with an actor friend while discussing the hideous dresses at the Oscars. I am trying to function from a simple standpoint. The standpoint is this…recent history. I’m one of those “definition of insanity” guys. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again…and get the same result then MAYBE consider doing something else. I don’t think that the plan for merger is perfect, I don’t, but I also don’t think that the “initial plan” to marry any two elements like this will ever be perfect in its inception. I, however, think that it is about an 90% solid. I also think that for as long as SAG and AFTRA have been dating, there is a way to start this “marriage” with the construct that has been put forth. Will there be bumps along the way, sure, and will there be some massaging to make everything fit right over the next few years…sure. But at this time in the history of our profession, technology I do not think waiting much longer is the best play for the fiscal future because we don’t have to just deal with a negotiation once every 3 years…we have CONSTANT negotiations with every contract that comes up. You know where I stand I now leave the rest to you, and thank you for reading if you did and passing the link on to others.

I don’t mind hearing comments, I don’t mind being told I’m wrong, and most of all…I don’t actually mind being wrong. What I can’t be, what is beyond me, is to stand still and continue to just “hold.” Pioneers make tough decisions, leaders lead into difficult valleys and new things are forged out of risk. I have risked a ton in my life, I have made monstrous strides from whence I came and have also made many mistakes. But in the end, wisdom comes from learning and learning comes from tough times and tough decisions. I think this is a tough decision, whose time has come.

I am always on your side,
Kevin E.

10 Comments on “SAG-AFTRA Merger: Series (5 of 5): The Future!”

  1. Thank you Mr. West….I enjoyed all your information and personal feelings and your HOPE…that people will do the right thing…and that more Actors Will work…as your company has been built around since you started it…to educate and to inspire and to share with everyone the best of the best who can and would help them on this Journey…your support of my Pioneer work has always been there …since we met…in a Theater Group of very respected Actors who invited us to be apart of their group…we worked together in our own unique ways…while we were there…You are the most devoted and Loyal Soul I have met in LA since I arrived…except for just a few more…So I salute you for all the Devotion and Dedication you have given to so many …and whether everyone agrees with what you have shared…it gives EVERYONE a chance to read details that do help everyone better understand all the Crazy details that go into such a CRISIS as the Merger has become. So Thank you again and hopefully there will be a Change that actually in the future is a result of what will be done now. That Actors can look back and say “that was the key to why things are better now for us.” And that they are grateful for the courage that was taken to make a New beginning possible. Once again Thank you Kevin West…for what you wrote
    a truly wonderful gift …

    all the best
    Award Winning Filmmaker
    Michael Savage aka Sirtony

  2. Thanks so much Kevin! Great read, and some great points!

    I think that for either union to have a beneficial existence to its membership in the future, there can never again be the option for one to walk away from the other. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’

    Let’s build a foundation, and a house, and then we can worry about how to decorate.

  3. Outstanding analysis, Kevin! Thank you for helping distill this complicated mess into the most important parts. I’m going to read both sides and do what I think is in the best interest of actors. I’m ready to let go of the past and move forward into the future in solidarity as one union. I’m gonna’ vote Yes.

  4. Well done series on the merger! Having been the VP of an IATSE local during negotiations, I know full well how having union members against union members does not help in negotiating for any of those members. As you said, there will be problems, there will be growing pains, and there will be disagreements in how things come together. However, we MUST come together as one union and work together to protect our rights. There have been too many attempts over the last several years to dismantle and weaken unions countrywide. Many have been successful and we have to grow together to have the best chance of standing strong and resisting these assaults.

  5. Thank you for this 5 part blog Kevin. I think it’s been very informative & helpful. I appreciate & respect your opinion, and all the research & homework you’ve done to arrive at it. I intend to share this link with fellow actors, and also to discuss the issues you’ve addressed in it with them. As a dual SAG & AFTRA card holder, I’m looking forward to my 2 votes, and also to when my work as an on-camera (& VO) artist is covered under one union.

  6. Thank you for doing this very clear and detailed discussion. As a person who does a lot of article/blog writing online, I appreciate just how long a time you took to write this. You have been very helpful. And I’ve put links to it on FB, Twitter, and Linked In because I think people should have access to it, and you gave us permission to do so. I’ve been frustrated for some clear cut discussion. I can read the documents, but I’m still new to SAG — I don’t have a lot of experience dealing with the various actor contracts or health or pension, but I’ve been in the business a long time so I know how important our unions are and how they protect or don’t have the clout to protect. For me, I appreciate when someone gives an interpretation to the same words I might read but with the weight of experience behind it to understand better. And I mean on both sides, because I’ve been frustrated by the badgering to vote both yes and no without giving me reasons to vote either way. Even though it seemed obvious you were pro-merger, yours has been the fairest commentary I’ve seen and has given me a framework to think on. Thank you, Kevin.

  7. Thank you Kevin. I am very grateful for your insight within these 5 sessions. Thank you also for taking such time and care with your assessment. I also know that with you, I can always trust that it is coming from a good and unbiased place with all of us and all of our career futures expressed in your thoughts and words. You have also given me much to celebrate about both our unions and our merged union to come. I’m proud to be a member of both unions and the incredible work our unions put together for this merger to become reality. Many thanks Kevin.

  8. I’m gonna vote yes because I don’t want to be in two unions fighting eachother. its just stupid. I just don’t see how that makes any sense at all! Kevin’s right, no plan’s ever gonna be absolutely perfect and 90% is an A- and I’m fine with that. but what we’ve got now is a mess. I’m a background artist, soon to be a speaking role actress and I hate having two pay two unions who just end up fighting eachother. end the madness people! let’s vote yes.

  9. Kevin,

    Thank you for taking the time to write this. As always, you are so clear and concise. I respect your opinion because you focus on the facts and I know you have done your research to make a well informed decision.

    Thank you!

    Elaine Zlaket

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