Strike-vote question looms for Hollywood actors

Wed Jun 18, 2008 12:45am EDT
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By Leslie Simmons and Lauren Horwitch

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - As the Screen Actors Guild inches closer to the June 30 expiration date of its TV/film contract, two questions come to the fore.

Will SAG extend the contract, enabling its members to keep working while negotiators keep bargaining?

And, will the guild ask its members to vote to authorize a strike -- assuming they can't reach a deal in the next two weeks with the studios and networks?

The answers are not so clear.

The decision on whether to call for a strike-authorization vote is up to SAG's 13-member negotiating committee, which consists of members from Hollywood, New York and other regions; the Hollywood members have a clear the majority.

The strike-authorization voting process would likely take at least two weeks, as it did in 2007 for the Writers Guild of America. In that case, the WGA sent strike-authorization materials to members at the beginning of October, with ballots due October 18. The results of the vote were announced October 20.

The WGA rank-and-file was unified on the strike front, but that does not appear to be the case with SAG. Many industry insiders believe it would be a risky move for the guild to take a vote because it would be next to impossible to get the 75 percent strike authorization vote it needs. Members' reluctance to vote for a strike is in part a reaction to the financial toll of the three-month writers' strike, which ended in February. Other factors are Hollywood's overall weariness with labor strife and the divisiveness within SAG's ranks, which surfaced after its leadership urged members of its fellow actors' union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), to reject their tentative agreement.

If SAG were to vote to give its leadership the go-ahead to call a walkout, it could give its negotiators more leverage with the AMPTP. Conversely, the failure of a strike vote would tip the scales in the other direction.   Continued...

<p>A sculptor works at a sand park exhibition in Pera, southern Portugal May 4, 2008. REUTERS/Hugo Correia</p>