Actors Union Copies Writers' Script

By Moberg, David | In These Times, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Actors Union Copies Writers' Script


Moberg, David, In These Times


STRIKES ARE RARE these days. And winning one is almost as rare as sighting an ivory-billed woodpecker.

But the three-month Writers Guild strike against the television and film studios mat ended in February won important rights for creative workers, and proved that a group of democratically empowered workers with public and labor movement solidarity could win against a highly concentrated and profitable industry. After hard-line bargaining by the industry trade group, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, dragged out the writers strike, studio executives stepped in to make a deal in late January-as they could have done much earlier.

Now the actors may follow the writers' script. Though unlikely to strike, the 120,000-member Screen Actors Guild (SAG) will follow the writers' contract pattern but attempt to add a few sweeteners to its deal, as contract talks get underway before the June 30 contract expiration.

The studio heads are likely to calculate that provoking an actors' strike will be bad for business. Even the chance for disruption could threaten the studios' plans to recover from production delays caused by the writers' strike.

But the actors are not as primed for a battle as the writers were. SAG and the otiier major actors' union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors, have just recentiy begun to cooperate after resolving earlier tensions. And SAG is still going through its internal discussions about bargaining priorities.

Also, a group of high-profile pro-union actors-including George Clooney and Tom Hanks-openly pressured SAG leaders to start negotiations early. The "A-List" actors also propose that only actors who have recently earned more than a yet-tobe-determined threshold should be able to vote on the contract, not the many union members who are erratically employed.

The actors' contract is likely to include the gains writers made, primarily pay for new and recycled material used in all new media, especially the Internet. Although the provisions are phased in over three years and give studios some loopholes, writers will eventually be paid 2 percent of distributors' gross revenue. …

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