SAG Negotiators Ask Board for Strike Vote

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The Screen Actors Guild’s negotiating committee voted Wednesday to support a strike authorization vote, a tactic meant to break stalled contract talks with Hollywood studios.

The recommendation, approved 11-2, now goes to the guild’s national board for review, and would ultimately need approval of 75 percent of the some 120,000 voting guild members.

“My personal opinion is, yes, we will achieve a strike authorization,” said Anne Marie Johnson, a spokeswoman for Membership First, a faction of actors that had controlled SAG’s national board until it narrowly lost its majority in elections last month.

“Membership First has always been a strong advocate of having a strike authorization with us while we’re negotiating,” Johnson said. “That’s really a wise way to negotiate.”

Contract talks dealing with primetime TV shows and movies have been at a standstill since the previous contract expired June 30.

Actors have been working under the terms of the old deal in hopes of avoiding a repeat of a 100-day writers strike that ended in February.

The studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said the economy is in trouble and urged actors not to strike.

“It is unrealistic for SAG negotiators now to expect even better terms during this grim financial climate,” the AMPTP said in a statement. “This is the harsh economic reality, and no strike will change that reality.”

The SAG’s national board, a 71-member body, is scheduled to meet Oct. 18. A simple majority is needed to approve the call for a strike vote.

The guild on Monday called for talks to resume, sending the request in a letter addressed to the alliance, The Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger and News Corp.’s Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin.

The producers’ chief negotiator, J. Nicholas Counter III, said he declined to resume talks because SAG continues to insist on terms the companies have rejected.

The guild wants union coverage of all shows made for the Internet, regardless of budget, and residual payments for actors on made-for-Internet shows that are reused on the Internet. It also demands protections for actors during work stoppages.

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