When Alan Rosenberg was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 2005, he vowed to take a hard line against the Hollywood studios. After years of moderation and pragmatism, Rosenberg argued, the union needed a more aggressive leadership to square off against the corporate behemoths that could undercut actors in the new era of digital entertainment.
Now, with movie and TV directors agreeing on a contract with the studios this month and striking writers nearing an accord of their own, the actor who frequently has played a lawyer on TV faces a different challenge: making good on his campaign promise to win advances for his 120,000 members despite being third up at the negotiating table, at a time when the economy is heading south and Hollywood is suffering from strike fatigue.
What’s more, SAG is in a turf war with its sister union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The two organizations have jointly negotiated contracts for decades. But long-simmering tensions now threaten to trigger a divorce between the labor groups, allowing the studios to pit one against the other.
Even so, Rosenberg is hanging tough, and SAG officials, underscoring their resolve, are disparaging the directors contract and hinting that the writers could come up short too.
“From what I’ve seen so far, I have some real concerns,” Rosenberg said in an interview. “We’ve seen things pretty much the same way as the writers and we have a very happy relationship. But if they make a deal that is unsatisfactory to us, we’re not going to go along with it without fighting.”
SAG leaders vow to push not only for increases in residuals from new media but also for a larger cut of revenue from DVDs — one of the issues that nearly sparked a strike in 2001. As Hollywood’s largest and most powerful union, SAG wields enormous leverage because it can instantly shut down all production.
[Read On: LATimes]