Sagging Interest in SAG

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I'm Matt Holzman with The Business Brief, a guide to what's happening in and around the business.

If I was to write a graphic novel about the seemingly never-ending imbroglio between the Screen Actors' Guild and the producers and submit it to Marvel Comics, I'm certain that they would reject it on the grounds that it was too far-fetched.

Tonight, in the next chapter of this stranger-than-fiction story, the leadership of the Screen Actors' Guild will hold a town hall meeting to try to sell their members on a strike.

SAG has been flailing about for months and months, battling not only the studios, but its own members and its sister union, AFTRA. And now, almost six months after their contract expired on June 30, they're playing this ill-advised game of brinksmanship, using the threat of a strike as their last desperate grab at some kind of leverage in the negotiations.

I am not going to recount all the details of how we got here. This is, after all, just a four-minute commentary. But I want to make it clear that the insanity that has brought us to this point does not in any way diminish the important demands being made by the union.

The problem is just that SAG's negotiators have played their hand so poorly all along, that the actual issues have now become moot. This is no longer a matter of who is right or who is wrong. There is only the reality that the actors' no longer have any cards to play.

Even if you thought that fighting the corporate titans with a strike made any kind of sense -– moral, financial or otherwise -– the country's economic downturn has now turned Don Quixote tilting at windmills into Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff.

Unfortunately, the producers have not seen fit to offer SAG a face-saving out. But there is method to their madness. Rather then giving the gunman a chance to come out of the house peacefully, they may be looking for a violent confrontation. If you've ever watched the local news, you know how these things end. And this would be no different. A strike would mean further decay of SAG as a viable representative of its members.

Cooler heads are going to have to prevail. SAG's board is just going to have to say the serenity prayer over and over until they realize that this is not something that they can change. They have to realize that this is not about winning a battle of wills but the livelihood of 120,000 working men and women, and thousands and thousands of others who depend on them. If SAG's leadership needs to think in terms of winning and losing, consider this: no one will win with a strike. But less people will lose if there isn't one.

Friends, it is time to push the reset button and look towards the future. SAG should accept that last, best the deal that was offered to them today. But tomorrow, that they should begin working within its ranks, with AFTRA and the other unions towards a unified front and a cohesive strategy that will accomplish their goals when contracts come up next. If they can do that, they'll a send a message to the producers that they will be forced to hear: we will not make things so easy for you next time.

I'd love to know what you think. Send me an e-mail at You can download a podcast of this commentary, share it with a friend, or embed it on your blog with the click of a button from our new media player at

For KCRW, I'm Matt Holzman.



Matt Holzman