Hollywood Labor Battle: The Latest Plot Twists

It's now been a month since the Screen Actors Guild's contract with the producers association (the AMPTP) has expired. Actors are working without contract, and the movie studios have been holding back film production, not wanting to be shut down by more labor conflict.

While TV productions frantically rush to shoot in the movie industry at least, we have a defacto work stoppage of sorts, and by some estimates hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity has been lost in July alone. But we're unlikely to see an actual strike, as it's highly unlikely SAG members would vote to ratify one, since 44,000 of them are also members of AFTRA, which ratified its contract with the AMPTP last month.

Now the battle is being waged over the future of SAG leadership, with a rebellious contingent within SAG agitating for change. The new group is called "Unite for Strength" and it's hoping to unseat current group in power in SAG, called "Membership First." (These are pretty classic names, if it were the writers' guild perhaps they'd be more creative). SAG's current leadership is holding out for more.

Today I spoke with Ned Vaughn, one of the leaders of "Unite for Strength" about what it is they really want. Their main agenda is to unite with their sister union AFTRA, so all actors will have more negotiating leverage and they won't find themselves in this stalemate. What now that AFTRA has already made its deal? They want their folks to take power of SAG so they can figure out if they're ready to end this dragged out mess.

But here's the latest twist: Hollywood is getting ready to get back to work after Labor Day. Contract or no contract, it seems the movie studios are no longer willing to be at the whim of SAG. Since there's little risk that SAG will get 75 percent of its membership to approve a strike, the studios are going to spend August ramping up production again so they can start shooting in September.

The sentiment from studio chiefs seems to be that they have no choice but to proceed. And if there's no real threat of a strike, then why not. If anything, the actors are losing out because they're working under the conditions of their old contract.

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