May 5, 2004
Dear SAG Member:
Screen Actors Guild must bargain and enforce contracts from a position of strength. Our power comes from you, as professional performers whose services our employers rely on to produce motion pictures, television programs and commercials. But SAG must also be fiscally strong and positioned to finance anything required to protect members, including organizing new jurisdictions, negotiating and enforcing contracts, and in a worst-case scenario, funding a strike.
On April 25 the Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors – in a true and remarkable act of national consensus – voted overwhelmingly to send this ballot to members, urging approval of an increase in dues and new member initiation fees, and the establishment of penalties for dues paid more than 60 days late. The message of the unified majority of the board is clear: the best way to move the Guild forward is on solid financial footing.
This is only the second time in 17 years that members have been asked to approve a dues increase. In fact, since 1987 SAG minimum dues have been raised only $15. During that time, the cost of living has gone up 64%. Our membership in 1987 was close to 70,000 and today we have almost 120,000 members to service and support, nationwide. As new media has been developed, our Guild has negotiated and enforced new contracts. In 2003 alone, SAG staff members collected over 35 million dollars in disputed claims on your behalf and processed 4.3 million residual payments for members. SAG has also worked hard to improve technologically in order to serve its members better.
The Guild has instituted rigorous cost-cutting policies in the past two and a half years. After operating with deficits year after year, painful financial reform was vital to our survival. Branch offices have been downsized and fewer staff members are doing more work for more members. The belt has been tightened, and still our funds are stretched to the limit. At a time when employers grow consistently more powerful and wealthy, union performers have far fewer resources than they should. You can change that, and it is up to you to send a strong message across the bargaining table with this vote. You must tell employers that this union is shoring up its finances and preparing for a long and prosperous future.
This proposal raises minimum dues by $15 each dues period and increases dues on earnings by a small percentage (see page 3 for specifics). Our current initiation fee of $1356 (two times the day performer minimum rate) will go up to $2085 (three times the day performer rate) in most areas of the country. Yes, it will be more expensive to join SAG – and it should be. We are also restructuring background eligibility requirements to make it harder to join SAG via background employment. The goal is to strengthen SAG in significant ways, resulting in better service and more jobs for all Guild members.
Vital reserves have dwindled, and as a union we must always have a war chest at the ready to protect, defend and improve our contracts. We must also look to the future and organize new burgeoning markets, including Spanish language and cable programs. We need to implement our online casting plan so employers and casting directors can access your headshot, resume or demo materials on the SAG 24/7 website. And our voices must be heard in Washington, D.C., and ev ery state capitol regarding issues that impact our ability to work in the United States as well as the piracy of our work and our images.
The time is now. We begin critical negotiations on our motion picture and television contract this fall. This agreement represents over one billion dollars in annual earnings for SAG members and is our number one priority. But we must bargain from a position of strength, with financial security and the power of SAG members behind us.
Please consider this proposal carefully. Please visit the SAG 24/7 website at www.sag.org if you have questions or call (800) 217-6121. We urge you to VOTE YES and mail your ballot in advance of the June 1 deadline.
Screen Actors Guild National Board of DirectorsMelissa Gilbert President
James Cromwell Secretary-Treasurer
Bob Pisano NED/CEO