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Friday, October 25, 2013

November National Board Report (unofficial)

This is an unofficial private letter, not a publication of the Screen Actors Guild nor does it reflect the views and policies of the Guild. I am writing this in open honesty as myself, Art Lynch, who happens to serve Nevada on the National Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild. 

Brothers and sisters of our union;

Dues are due today. 
If you have not done so, make plans to pay, as our locals future may depend on our membership strength and earnings. Encourage others who live work work in Nevada to transfer to our local. Encourage those who claim to be "SAG Eligible" to join AFTRA-SAG and become professionals. All will help us, as explained later in this report.

Today is the day we celebrate Nevada Day. 
Nevada day is celebrated on the last Friday of October since Californians voted to change it from the traditional October 31st...Halloween.

It was a vote of Nevada voters, but the voting results clearly show that voting stations heavy with transplanted Californians voted to change the date, while those dominated by second generation or later Nevadans wanted to keep it on the last day of October.

There are reasons:

Nevada students were always off on Halloween...making it less confusing, safer and allowing parties the night before and all day for all ages.

But most important Nevada became a state on October 31st, 1864, the last date where a state could count toward casting electoral votes in the tightly contested reelection of an unpopular president...Abraham Lincoln. That is why we are called the "Battle Born State"...because we were born of the Civil War.

So enjoy the day off and the considerable defusing of a proud state holiday one year prior to its Nevada fades away into suburban LA.

UNION PRIDE and communication with members.

I am proud to represent you on the National Board of Directors. For those who voted for my opponents, I hope to hear from you to find out what you feel I need to do, as well as your concerns.

The only way we can publicize in our now less frequent newsletter if for you to get in touch with me through our SAG office, Your views, opinions and what you feel I should be doing for you are valued and needed.

I do manage two Facebook Pages and two blogs:

For those who ask why not SAG-AFTRA? Not my choice. The sites have been taken and I am also dedicated to preserving SAG-AFTRA's control, as much as they can, over sites that carry the name of the new union. My sites have roots as deep as a dozen years, with most six years and running. When they were started, I was a board member of the Screen Actors Guild representing Nevada. I am proud to be representing Nevada in our new union SAG-AFTRA.

As always, President Ken Howard begins meetings with a moment of silence for those who have passed away over the past year. He reads each name in solemn voice. It was highly emotional when Nevadans were acknowledged. Rest in peace.

We are union.

Politics, the past and petty differences must be put aside to allow for local meetings, stronger committees, the loss of divisive agendas on committees, work with the national board representative to inform the membership, be a vital part of the process of continueing to form a new union, and solidifying Nevada as a stand alone local, with our own identity, history and membership needs and services. With the election behind us, we need to hold our our hands, swallow our pride and move forward for the membership, not our own ego, agenda or social desires.

SAG-AFTRA is a union, not a club or social organization. 

We are part of the AFL-CIO and four A's. We function legally as a union and provide union services and negotiation rights as outlined by Federal Labor Law.  Our national president Ken Howard is a Vice President of the AFL-CIo and active in national union poiltics and the advancement of our ability to represent our membership in contract, safety and other key issues.

Policy is constitutionally vested in the National Board of Directors, with certain powers vested by the board to our National Executive Director. Local boards deal with local needs, committees and keeping the membership connected to and involved with the local.

The future of the union in Nevada is up to you.

Union members are encouraged to plan events in support of charity. There are two reasons that such activities do need to be coordinated through staff. First of all, to allow the Guild to assist in publicizing member activities. The second is make sure that there are no conflicts you may not be aware of (limitations on SAG-AFTRA set by Federal Labor law, planned job actions, or conflicts with SAG-AFTRA policy as examples). The Nevada local has been one of the more active locals, and has plans to become even more so.

Without an office or an executive, there remains a strong Nevada Local.

Major budget cuts at the end of May led to the elimination of our union office and executive. The cuts were deep, but we are far from alone. 15 locals lost their executives and several were rolled into other local. We are our own local, with a direct political voice at the national level. 

Since that date, reports in the media confirm what I knew as a board member, that the actual debt is far worse than projected. We need to focus what we have on what it vital for the entire union, including all of us as members of the Nevada Branch. Strong national contracts and strong national organization in the face of a tide of anti-union Right-to-Work gains nationally.

We have been without a direct local executive in the past. Most of the life of the Nevada Branch of the Screen Actors Guild we were administered out of Denver or Los Angeles. We grew and remained strong through strong leadership, active members and a real sense of unionism in the face of our right-to-work state bias and those who falsely claim that "there is no union in Nevada."

Stay Dues Current: It is important for Nevada’s voice in a new union.

A reminder to SAG-AFTRA members that it is very important you pay your dues ASAP.  Methods of payment and, if applicable locations, can be found on the web site. Your on-time dues payment is vital to ensure services and national board voting level for Nevada

The Road Toward a New Union.

A new merged union is needed to counter the increased strength of the corporations who hire us, to maintain wages and working conditions, to establish our right to representation on new media and growing contracts and to  protect performers well into the future. Economy of scale and unified representation will end competition between unions in this anti-union environment in which we all live. If you wish to work more often, you should support the proposed new union.

There will be merger or growing pains. Some locals have closed or consolidated, others may follow. Dues for those who wee members of only one union did go up, but it is an investment in your own future. Government and the nature of how services are delivered to the membership will go through changes, some small, others potentially major.

A new union for the 21st century "and beyond' (Buzz Light-year) is the goal, not the merger of two existing unions rooted in the technology of the early to middle 20th century.

Former SAG President Richard Masur drove it home with me...the choice is survival, and being able to remain a strong union. If we do not merge, new technologies, management driven powers and divisiveness between unions will weaken both unions and empower the qualified professional non-union market. We had to merge.

There will be change. There are no guarantees of local integrity, political voice or structure, although the focus is toward national representation from the local level up. Remember that there were major cultural and structural differences between the two unions, many of which are still being dealt with, to lay the foundation for the "new union." 

I will continue to fight to keep Nevada well represented, staffed and our own local branch identity.

Organizing to increase work opportunities.

The Guild is working to increase the use of SAG-AFTRA talent.

The truth is that a union contract not only protects you, but offers advantages to young producers and filmmakers. This will help producers to see the value of qualified professional union talent. There are resources within the union to help productions use qualified union professional talent.   

SAG-AFTRA is working internally and with outside services to make it easier for the employers to become union signatories. The starting point is the corporate educational contract, with local focus on small low budget and student films, but efforts will expand. 

Organization really starts at the grass roots level. That means you, me and everyone else in the union. We need to audition for all productions, union and non-union, but insist on a union contract before we accept a job. We need to report union members who are ignoring our primary rule, that we do not work non-union. We need to help show producers how easy it can be to work with union talent under a union contract. We need to be fully professional on audition and on the set. We need to support and become active with the Branch Organizing Committee.

I have or will work five modified to ultra low and and student films over a four month period. How did I do it? I auditioned. Show up at non-union auditions and show them what professional union talent can do for them. Refer them to the union, and come informed so when they ask you if you can work non-union you can tell them how they can use you as a union artist.

Rule One must be enforced to build union work for us all.

Remember Rule 1 always applies, which means union talent does not do non-union work.

Members are obligated to turn in anyone alleged to be doing non-union work. There is a due-process procedure, along with evidential requirements and degrees of judgment and decisions making. No member will be “crucified” and most come out of the process as stronger unionist.

Rule 9 enforcement is another issue in areas where all entertainment acting related unions are active.  We are expected to support other unions in their contracts.

If you are working under a SAG-AFTRA contract, you may cross another unions picket line. Contact our local executive, Steve Clinton, should you find yourself in this position. If you are not working a union gig, it is up to you. SAG-AFTRA members are encouraged to join in union picket lines, in view of the declining position of unions in America.

Stay on top of your union.

It is important that members have current e-mail addresses that they check and read. The union will provide information on what your union is doing, send surveys for your opinion and promote events and benefits you may find interesting only by e-mail. The print magazine will be provided three times a year, with an e-version for the 4th edition.

If you know of any member who does not have e-mail, or who is not receiving electronic SAG-AFTRA communications, please offer to help them to go on-line. 

The Hollywood Reporter may still be offering free subscriptions for Guild members, on-line news magazine, blogs, and other services are available free or for a fee, to help you to remain on top of the industry. In the interest of full disclosure, I have run a daily Nevada industry blog for over ten years.

I strongly encourage you, in this rapidly changing world, to do learn what you can, stay informed and keep your skills in top form.

In solidarity;

Art Lynch
National Board Director

This is not writing in any way on behalf of the SAG-AFTRA or any other organization, unless indicated otherwise.

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