The ecumenical holiday Chrismukkayule came with the slight gift of relief as the Screen Actors Guild strike vote was pushed back from January 2 to January 12 to
address the unfortunate division and restore consensus
as SAG Executive Director Doug Allen wrote in an email late Monday night. Both Allen and Guild president Alan Rosenberg are staunch strike supporters, but there is growing dissent within the union, and throughout Hollywood, regarding a strike.
The strike authorization vote will start after after the union’s national board meets to discuss the matter. Last week at a SAG meeting in New York, Rosenberg met with vociferous opposition as members demanded the strike be called off. New York board members have advocated replacing the current negotiating committee with a task force.
Allen wrote that the delay in the strike vote
will provide us with more time to conduct member education and outreach on the referendum before the balloting.
But last year’s Writers Guild strike–and the overall slowdown in production caused by the anticipation of the actors’ strike–is all the education many working SAG members require to see the hardships striking would cause on many levels.
To pass, a strike authorization must be approved by 75% of members who cast votes. The Guild has 120,000 members, 80% earning under $13,790–the baseline for insurance qualification. Is a strike that big a deal to the majority? However, the employment of the minority provides direct and indirect income for tens of thousands–not only other actors, crew and production staff but via general spending: restaurants, shops, service professionals, the travel and recreation industry, schools and charities are all affected when Hollywood grinds to a halt.
In the past weeks, over 130 prominent actors–including George Clooney, Sally Field, Helen Hunt, Charlize Theron, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman–spoke out against the strike, citing the overall economy and adding:
Three years from now all the union contracts will be up again at roughly the same time. At that point if we plan and work together with our sister unions we will have incredible leverage.
Mel Gibson, Martin Sheen, Valerie Harper, Connie Stevens, Ed Asner and several dozen other actors are pro-strike, arguing that the studios’ contract offer is unacceptable and threatens the future of actors in the digital era.
While Allen wrote that the strike vote would begin immediately after the meeting, moderates are expected to press for a delay in the strike vote to see whether negotiations with the studios can resume. The board also could move to have Allen removed as negotiator.
There is room on both sides of the table for negotiating, for both the producers and the actors to walk away with wins. And if coalitions can be built during the next three years, the film unions will be in a stronger position.