By Lauren A.E. Schuker, The Wall Street Journal
The results of a pivotal election within the Screen Actors Guild on Thursday could pressure the union's leadership to resolve a contract dispute with the Hollywood studios.
The actors' contract expired in June, but talks have stalled with the studios amid sparring within the union that has prevented a strike from going forward. In this week's board election, a dissident faction appears to have won enough seats to wrest control away from a rival faction that has controlled SAG for many years.
At stake in the election was whether "MembershipFirst," the group that currently controls SAG and backed President Alan Rosenberg, would continue to hold its voting majority on the union's major board -- or whether that coalition would cede control to a rival group of Hollywood actors that ran under the banner "Unite for Strength" and which has advocated unifying SAG with its sister union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
SAG members voted up six candidates backed by Unite for Strength for the 11 open seats on SAG's national board of directors, switching the voting majority away from MembershipFirst, according to estimates.
With new leadership in place, SAG may make a deal with the studios sooner than expected. Ned Vaughn, a newly elected Hollywood board member, says that the new board leadership -- which supports a merger with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which has already accepted a deal from the producers -- is eager to start talks with the studios again.
The infighting at the union has essentially paralyzed contract talks with the studios. The possibility of a strike in July came and went, and now studios are producing television shows and films at a normal pace. The studios' bargaining arm has been waiting for the election results in hopes that a change in leadership will quickly resolve the contract stalemate.
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SAG, AFTRA stand with ACTRA
Unions show support for Canadian guild
Variety article By DAVE MCNARYIn a rare show of unity, SAG and AFTRA have announced jointly that they'll support ACTRA should the Canadian actors union strike against the ad industry.
The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists issued the statement of support Wednesday for the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists. Move came a day after ACTRA announced it was seeking a strike authorization from its members.
"We believe that it is critical that the industry meets them halfway and ensures that ACTRA members receive just compensation for their creative performances and for their willingness to make modifications where appropriate," the unions said. "In the event that ACTRA is forced to call a strike, SAG and AFTRA will take all actions legally possible to support striking ACTRA members, including instructing our members to refuse to accept any engagements from struck employers, particularly any attempts by those employers to relocate productions to the U.S. or other locations."
ACTRA's current deal expired June 30. A government mediator joined negotiations in July and talks will resume Sept. 25.
SAG and AFTRA have been at odds this year over the feature-primetime contract with AFTRA splitting from joint bargaining with SAG and then negotiating a primetime deal, which was ratified by members over SAG's objections. The two unions agreed last month to a six-month extension of their commercials contract until March 31; they've informally agreed to joint negotiations on the ad pact but have not made that agreement official yet.