Sunday, December 8, 2013

National Board Report (unofficial)

Hope you had the best summer and fall  one and all!

Allow me to begin with a personal indulgence.
For the past decade I have been working on earning a PhD in Education. At the end of January I became Dr. Art Lynch. 

Anyone who has gone through the process knows that it is draining on not only themselves, but their family and friends. Friends and associates fall by the wayside. Marriages end.

My marriage got stronger. I have a wonderful wife in Laura, as those who know her can attest.

In addition financial problems related to the Great Recession falling during the process of working on my PhD, costs and loss of considerable income have taken their toll. 

I was burnt out.

The process was exhausting and the end of the rainbow ended up being, so far at least, a rock.

But I kept working for the members of SAG, with committee meetings, meetings and work toward our successful merger and now the election of a new union board and a new union, SAG-AFTRA. It is a "you have to have been there" thing to understand the 36 consecutive hour board meeting, two failed attempts to merge, the finances and other information proprietary to a corporate non-profit board (California law applies), deep financial cuts and finally the heart breaking loss of 15 local offices and local executives, and over 80 executives and key employees coast to coast.

Stressful stuff, but not overlooked during my long PhD process and since.

My apologies to all who may have seen less of me on the set or had phone calls lost between the cracks. I have been and will continue to use my education and experience to represent all of us in the complexities and politics of the SAG-AFTRA National Board.

Something New

The relationships I have built remain strong and will be used over the next four years, "God willing and the creek don't rise" to the advantage to members and for Nevada.

Since Nevada was always a SAG branch with no local presence by AFTRA or Equity (there was an equity committee, which is short of a local, for a while), local members never experienced the Convention Process. It was disappointing that only two members ran for Convention Delegates and were elected unopposed (therefore no election in that area), although both are dedicated members who will serve you well at the end of the month in Los Angeles, along with your president Barbara Grant.

The convention process is new to us, providing the only body that can overturn actions of the National Board and one process to change the constitution. It occurs only once every two years.

Elections are now every two years, with the National Board of Directors on a four, instead of three year term. All local offices (National Board is a national office) will be up for election in 2015.

We bring all the best from SAG and AFTRA in terms of contracts and benefits. The retirement and insurance plans have yet to merge, but work is being done as I write this. We negotiated and won a strong Commercial Contract, the first new contract under our now merged union.


I would like to thank all three candidates that ran against me. Steve Dressler is a good man, a friend who is well liked by national board members and local presidents across the country. As a council member and as your local president for ten years he served Nevada well, and with all his considerable heart and resources. He was defeated in a calculated attempt to get "three down" starting with Vice President Lollo Sievert, then Steve with the third intended to be myself. You would have done well to restore Steve to the board or as president.

Thank you to those who voted for me in the last two elections.

And a special thank you to Steve. Truth known, if I had a crystal ball, I would have voted for Steve so he would best me by one vote instead of the other way around.

Kim Renee has been a friend and a hard worker for members for decades. I have seen her hard work nationally on behalf of stunt performers and the safety of all members on the set, for young performers and as an alternate to the National Board. She also has a hard working heart that knows no boundaries.

Chris Rogers I do not know as well. He knows computers, puts in hours for the membership, works commercial and theatrical contracts and has been in the cast of paid long running local theater at the Plaza. i am sure all three would have made good board members.

You had a tough decision in the last election.

Thank you for your votes and confidence.

A world of change.
Labor unions, born of the struggles of the nineteenth century, continue to face changes in management, economics, technology and public opinion. The pace may be increasing exponentially. One group, professional working actors are faced with the impact of technology, decentralization and the rapid growth of the number of qualified professional performers.

The AFL-CIO met in Los Angeles and elected SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard to a national Vice President position. That umbrella organization also set forth on aggressive moves to help an increasingly stagnant or in decline work force understand the importance of unions, including in non-traditional contract and temporary employment areas. I am excited about the direction the AFL-CIO i taking, as we need unions more than ever for the average American to regain their position as a strong middle class backbone for our society.

Actors have seen increasing challenges in making a living while pursuing their craft, their art form, and their professions.

The modern performance labor union started in an age when hotels put out signs that read “no dogs or actors allowed”. Actors were looked upon as traveling deadbeats and the most successful actors would travel from city to city, using local talent to produce theater and entertainments, leaving with the lions share of any ticket gate brought in, or leaving on a rail.

The entertainment and information industries are merging, under the control or umbrella of as few as six major international corporations as of the end of 2002. The line between reality and theater is blurred, with an accountant’s pen often deciding which vision of reality or art is presented to the mass audience. In recent years the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA has been faced with the shift by employers (who were themselves creative producers of product, entertainment and art), to a world with a half dozen corporate entities controlling most of the worlds information and entertainment, utilizing the concepts of accounting and stock value to make decisions more often than story or social value.

The methods, compensation and ability of actors to earn a living using their craft are evolving, often to the disadvantage of the working actor. Actors face the reality of a decrease in potential earnings, known as salary compression. Producers are in a position to offer roles at union scale to experience and sometimes “name” actors and to cripple the union in their efforts to make significant inroads in the areas of salary and benefits. New Media, an umbrella term for all of the new technologies which have evolved over the past ten to fifteen years (including the cable industry as we know it), often falls outside of or at the fringe of contracts with minimal compensation for the use of talent.

Modern unions must fight not only the continuing battle to make it possible for their members to earn a middle class income, but also a battle against powerful foes that are set in the elimination of unions, the larges of which is the National Right-to-work Foundation, which really exist to make it possible to fire without cause (illness, age, gender, personality conflicts, or arbitrary rules set to make it easy to employers to document termination).

The battle for unions.
Unions are under attack, from every level. 

Billionaires and corporate giants are funding the rapid expansion of laws that undermine the finances of unions at an increasing rate...from local to state to national.

They claim that unions spend huge amounts on politics and that those dues are to influence elections and laws. Not so. In SAG-AFTRA the amount spent on politics is less than one percent, and none of it can be used to support a particular candidate or party. Union political money exist to help offset the huge financial forces controlled by management and ownership.

Initiations and dues go to pay for administration of memberships services, which include negotiating and policing wages working conditions, something management would rather not see. Any service the union provides is provided by paid employees who work, as it turns out, for far less than their counterparts in the corporate world.

Without union funds there can be no unions, and the National Right-to-work foundation knows that.

Without public hearings and during a lame-duck session of the legislature Michigan became the first state at the heart of the industrial union belt to go right to work. Indiana preceded it earlier in the year and Wisconsin reaffirmed a governor who seriously undermined the core rights of workers to collectively bargain.

SAG-AFTRA is a union. Many want to pretend otherwise, but look into history and you will see that both unions, who merged earlier this year, were begun as just that, unions. We have over 80 years of history of being a part of and standing up for the rights of all workers.

Whenever non-union, pre-union on “SAG eligible” talent works they are taking away from the pockets of and food on the table of union performers. Since they can work both union and non-union, they can earn union pay and benefits under hard fought union contracts while supporting potential employers who use the available “trained talent pool” as an excuse to not use SAG-AFTRA members.

As one columnist put it, Right-to-Work is theft. Can I walk into your country club and use all the services without paying, while you as a member have to pay for that membership and those services. Non-union talent can work without having to join the union, gaining all the benefits we have earned over the years. Can I get a lawyer or doctor who does non-union commercials to give me their services for less than they claim they are worth? How long would that doctor, lawyer or country club stay in business if they gave it all away for free?
In a right to work state non-union talent does not have to pay initiation or dues to gain the full benefits of union work.

As members of the largest entertainment union in the world, you are a part of this battle whether you like it or not. Your future income and that of all talent is at stake.

Support politicians who will vote against Right-to-work. Get active in AFL-CIO and other battles to undo this unfair legislation. Turn down non-union work. Report members who work “off the card.” Let your voice be heard,
It’s our union.

And unions need our help.

Your voice is needed.

Many changes have led to concerns.

Smaller national committees now called task forces, means far less representation from Nevada and other locals. Nevada has been traditionally active and strong at the national level through our activities on national committees.

There is no position on a national level, other than being alternates to the national board of directors in most local constitutions, for the presidents of locals. It may take action from Convention delegates to return local president so the position they held within the Legacy Screen Actors Guild.

The loss of the Regional Branch Division as a division of Screen Actors Guild’s board has led to the loss of a direct government voice for the elected leadership from the branches. We now serve as a committee of locals that can advise instead of initiate policy and directly influence votes. Board members remain members of the national body when it meets, limited by agenda and the cost effective use of the limited time the board is in session. This will be an issue addressed at convention by delegates from the smaller locals.

One is the power of the National Executive Committee, which handles the day-to-day business and decision making of the Guild. While informed at quarterly meetings, and given, on paper, the ability to overturn the NEC, the reality is that by the time we review it policies, procedures and the impact of decisions are already in place. Some board members, and many running for delegates in other locals, would like changes in this are of constitutional distribution of powers.

The ability of the membership of locals to have greater control over their own budgets, members’ services and policies will be an issue at the convention as well.

It is important to note that delegates to the convention travel on their own dime, with no or limited reimbursement from the union.
Consider running for delegate. This is you chance to have a direct voice in the governing and future of your union, and to meet members from all professions cost to coast.

The Future
We face a bright future, going into each contract as one union instead of two.
We bring the strength of the largest union in the industry, made up of a wide range of professionals in multiple areas of this increasingly monolithic industry.
We join others in fighting the strong anti-union forces gaining strength and eroding the ability of all of us to organize to earn fair wages, safe working conditions and strong futures doing what we are skilled at and love doing.
We are prepared for the growing power on the other side of the negotiating table, the merging of technologies, the change and growth of where and how we work and how we earn our income as actors and performers.
We are SAG-AFTRA, the union for the future.

Be proud and join me in being thankful this holiday season that we finally have joined into one unified force for all members, and for all future performers.

Art Lynch
National Board Director, Nevada

Note official newsletters have not been
going out on schedule due to a lack of 
member contributions and financial 
restrictions placed by the high cost of
transition to a new union. There will
be a newsletter under a new editor
in October.

Written 9/23/2013

No comments: