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Sunday, August 24, 2014

National Baord Reprot (unofficial) September 2014

This is an unofficial private letter, not a publication of SAG-AFTRA 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 SAG-AFTRA.

Brothers and sisters of our union;
I am proud to represent you on the National Board of Directors. I hope to hear from you to find out what you feel I need to do, as well as your concerns. Your views, opinions and what you feel I should be doing for you are valued and needed.

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 for me when Nevadans were acknowledged. Four generations of talent are leaving this earth, most of them far too young. We have lose actors from the Hollywood Studio Systems heyday, and from recent television seasons, from our childhoods and from our children's childhoods, from grandparent and parents life times...some expected, some in unnecessary shock and trauma. 

Rest in peace.

We are union.

Politics, the past and petty differences must be put aside to allow for more meetings, stronger committees, the loss of divisive agendas in committees, work with the national board representative to inform the membership, be a vital part of the process of forming a new union, and solidifying Nevada as a stand alone branch or 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.

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

Local activism encouraged.

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 union 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 branches, and has plans to become even more so.

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

The deadline to pay your dues comes up on us unexeptedly every October and March. A reminder to SAG members that it is very important you pay your dues.  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 increasing our strength to deal with 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 branches and locals have closed or forced to consolidate. We still have a strong local, but advice comes through Denver and all oversight and assistance is through Los Angeles departments, delaying response and sometimes being lost in the cracks. I am working on this as are all levels of management. Document all calls and contacts and feel free to let myself, Julie in Denver and Linda in Dallas know about any problems that occur in timly response from LA. 

We must continue to battle for the return of a local exectutive and office in the future. It is up to all of us as members to keep the pressure on.

Deep and painful cuts were made by our paid National Executive Director under the powers given to that position by the constitution. They were needed due to a much larger budget shortfall than projected when merger occurred. In the time since the nature of finances has become clearer. We have to focus on the core missions of contracts, working conditions, organizing and servicing the members at a basic core union levels.

The board had little to no notice and no real say as we saw our executives removed, offices closed and in some cases locals dissolved or merged into other geographically distant locals. We also saw no alternatives, given budget information.

However remember that for most of its existence as a branch of the Screen Actors Guild Nevada had no local executive or office. We grew and we prospered into one of the most active small locals in the nation.

A new union for the 21st century "and beyond' (Buzz Light-year) is the goal.

Former SAG President Richard Masur drove it home with me...the choice is survival, and being able to remain a strong union. If we did not merge, new technologies, management driven powers and divisiveness between unions could have weaken both unions at a time when the anti-union politics of the country are growing, and management merging into even stronger blocks of employers.

There will be change. There are no guarantees on local integrity, political voice or structure into the future, although the focus is toward national representation from the local level up. Remember that there are major cultural and structural differences that remain from the two "landmark" unions.  These  must be dealt with to strengthen the foundation for the "new union." 

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 Guild to help productions use qualified union professional talent.   

It is up to us to sell filmmakers, including those who appear to be solidly anti-union, on the value of union talent and the protections of union contracts not just for us but for them.

SAG 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 Local Nevada Organizing Committee.

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.  If you are not working a SAG gig, it is up to you. SAG members are encouraged to join in union picket lines, in view of the declining position of unions in America.

By auditioning I have earned modified low budget, ultra low budget and student contracts on five films over a four month period.

Audition for non-union production. Offer them information and encourage them to use a union contract for your talents. If they do not..."just say no."

This remains one of the best grass roots ways to build the amount of opportunity and work in Nevada.

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 Guild 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. There are special rates on other industry publications and free feeds from the SAG-AFTRA, the SAG Foundation and other news and information sources. In the interest of full disclosure, I have run a daily Nevada industry blog for over ten years. I also run two FaceBook and two a second blog.

Be sure to check out Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, Backstage, the Los Angeles Times, Deadline and other trade publications to remain on top of your industry, craft, trade and art.

I strongly encourage you, in this rapidly changing world, to do stay on top of your industry.

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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