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AFTRA Goes It Alone

Strikewatch_blog The gloves are officially off!

AFTRA leaders made the much anticipated joint meeting with SAG board members short, sweet, and controversial today. According to published reports, AFTRA president Roberta Reardon and her coterie announced the union will suspend their 27-year joint bargaining agreement with SAG in order to negotiate a primetime TV agreement directly with producers.

In a just-released statement, Reardon implied SAG's recent attempt to gain jurisdiction over the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful--which has been operating under an AFTRA contract for 50 years--was the final straw.

"SAG leadership in Hollywood has engaged in a relentless campaign of disinformation and disparagement, culminating in a recent attempt to decertify an AFTRA daytime soap opera," Reardon stated. "As a result of this continued and ongoing behavior by SAG leadership, which at its core harms all working performers and the labor movement, we find ourselves unable to have any confidence in their ability to live up to the principles of partnership and union solidarity."

"AFTRA believes it must devote its full energies to working on behalf of performers, and not wasting time assessing whether our partner is being honest with us."

Oooh, snap!

SAG President Alan Rosenberg sounded somewhat shell-shocked in his statement responding to AFTRA's action. "We spent weeks working with our fellow actors in AFTRA on joint proposals to improve the lives of all working actors," he stated. "AFTRA's refusal now to bargain together with us and their last-second abandonment of the joint process is calculated, cynical and may serve the interests of their institution, but not its members."

AFTRA's move took this Strike Watcher by surprise. The two unions appeared to be working together more harmoniously than in recent months when they jointly announced their Wages and Working Conditions Committees had approved proposals the national joint board would have considered today. Fortunately, my esteemed colleague Andrew Salomon pointed out one never knows what's going to happen given SAG and AFTRA's rocky past. Tis very true today and will make for some awkward moments in the halls of 5757 Wilshire Blvd. on Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the AMPTP just weighed in with a statement applauding AFTRA's move. The producers and AFTRA have always been on the same page about opening talks as soon as possible. Now that AFTRA has decided to go it alone, I expect their negotiations (sans SAG) could begin as early as this week.

The AMPTP stated, "We are determined, as we have always been, to work hard and bargain reasonably with the actors' unions so that we can all avoid another harmful, unnecessary strike."

We'll keep you posted....

--Lauren Horwitch

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