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Friday, December 19, 2008

Eric Bogosian Pens Letter Supporting SAG Strike

The web site Deadline Hollywood Daily published the following letter from Eric Bogosian (Law & Order Criminal Intent), which supports a strike by SAG members:

Dear Friends,

The New York Board of the Screen Actors Guild has released a statement of non-support for the upcoming strike authorization vote. I am writing to tell you that I was not part of the meeting in which this resolution was adopted, I did not vote for it and I object to it. Up to this point, I have kept quiet outside the boardroom. But since others think they have the right to speak for me, I must speak for myself.

I will support a “yes” vote for strike authorization. This is how I will vote and this is how I would recommend all membership to vote.

Is this the right time for a strike authorization? Yes. It is our only move. The contract is terrible. If you don’t believe me, go online and read about it yourself. [The AMPTP's contract itself is at: http://amptp.org/files/AMPTP_SAG_final_offer_063008.pdf
this link. ] Visit SAG homepage for this info.

The complicating factors are the current economy and the unknown efficacy of a strike authorization. Each person must vote his or her best insight and conscience. I am voting mine.

Make no mistake, there is no better contract three years down the line. Sooner or later, you have to stand up and be counted. And sooner is always better than later.

Perhaps you don’t care about what you get paid or residuals or French hours or any of that. All you want is a job on any terms. OK, but if you like health care, pensions, a safe working environment please acknowledge the fact that all of these things were achieved through union collective bargaining. In the past, membership stood up for what we have now. The essence of being in a union is collective bargaining.

If you are voting “no” for strike authorization because you think that our current board of directors are strike mongerers or hot-heads, please think again because you are simply THINKING WHAT THE AMPTP WANTS YOU TO THINK. We are asking for a straightforward negotiation on straightforward points. We must negotiate these now, or suck lemons until we can. And when will that be? Three years from now? Please note that AMPTP never makes a better deal until they have to. Caving in now will only encourage them toward further union-busting tactics. For ALL the unions.

And with that in mind, be aware that our union is the largest with the most money to be distributed via residuals. We are the prize for the AMPTP. Likewise, as we cave, so will they continue to pressure our sister unions to wilt under pressure.

We have every right to negotiate our own contract. Yes, our leadership is stubborn and brassy. So what? Who do you want representing you? The producer’s friends?

After the last election the national board includes members who are very critical of our leadership. As a result, the board represents a balanced view regarding any potential strike. If you can trust anyone to make a balanced judgement, this is the time. But leadership must have strike authorization to get the AMPTP back to the table.

Two last thoughts.

Firstly, we are a union, we are a voting membership. The producers are a commercial entity. The people with whom we negotiate are hired guns. They can be replaced if they don’t do their job. And up to now they haven’t done a very good job finishing this contract and their bosses know it. There are major motion pictures waiting to start shooting. They cannot proceed until there is a contract (and no possibility whatsoever of a strike). AMPTP is threatening us with a punitive situation. But the sword cuts both ways. This is our strength.

Secondly, the Internet is going to be vastly profitable to the AMPTP on a scale never before seen. The costs of doing business will go way down. The middle-men in foreign markets will disappear (you don’t need a distributor when you do down-loads and streaming). And the “units” will be exactly accountable. The advertisers will know exactly how many viewers will watch the TV shows and movies downloaded or streamed. And if we do this right, so will we. Our contracts have established that we should receive a percentage of revenue as “residuals”, why are we giving that up now?

I am truly sorry that the New York Board has chosen to fight the leadership for most of this year. They have done nothing to make a difficult situation easier. I’m all for debate, but in the boardroom, not in public. We elected our officials, let’s let them do their job.

For more info go to:

Eric Bogosian

Since I am not a member of SAG I can’t really comment on the soundness of Eric’s letter and my publication of his comments should not imply that I endorse them or oppose them. I am concerned, however, that NBC’s shift away from dramas in the 10:00 PM prime time hour next fall will mean less jobs for union actors for television, and possibly over time, other networks will continue with more reality and other programming that also doesn’t require union actors. And, with the country in a serious recession at this time, and with deflation looming, TV watchers may not take kindly to a strike by actors, seeing that the recent strike by screenwriters turned program schedules upside down. My only advice to SAG is to proceed with caution and be careful not to cut off their collective noses to spite their faces.

By the way, Alicia Witt, who also was on Law & Order Criminal Intent, has a video below where she adds her own two cents to the matter:

Check out my blog home page for the latest information, here.

Also, see my companion Law & Order site, All Things Law & Order.

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