Federal Judge Backs Guild's Chief Negotiator

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Federal Judge Backs Guild's Chief Negotiator

Attempt to Undermine SAG National Board’s Selection of Bob Pisano as Union’s Chief Negotiator is Dismissed by the Court

Los Angeles (December 21, 2004) – In a surprise early ruling, a federal court today tossed out a claim brought by two individuals that attempted to undermine the SAG national board’s choice of chief negotiator. Judge R. Gary Klausner of the U.S. District Court formally dismissed the case in a written summary judgment motion issued this morning.

The court ruled as baseless and without merit the claim by two individual SAG members that Guild National Executive Director and CEO Bob Pisano’s involvement with Netflix constituted a conflict of interest. The Court also reaffirmed the right of SAG’s elected board representatives to select its chief executive and determine its chief negotiator for collective bargaining.

“The court today gave working actors across the nation the best holiday gift they could have received,” said SAG President Melissa Gilbert. “Bob Pisano is one of the strongest assets SAG members have at the negotiating table. His broad industry experience and extraordinary judgment are weapons for us against the studios and networks. We are a stronger union today as a result of this court ruling, which affirms the judgments of two separate SAG national boards.”

In his ruling, the judge found no conflict in Pisano’s role as a director of Netflix. He ruled:
  • “Plaintiffs have shown no evidence that Pisano ever acted in a manner that harmed SAG interests."
  • “Plaintiffs have shown no evidence of an actual conflict of interest. Netflix does not deal directly with SAG. Netflix has no control over how much residuals the movie studios pay the actors…"
  • “Netflix and SAG are sufficiently unrelated to allow a person to hold an executive position with both organizations without creating an actual conflict of interest.”
SAG Secretary-Treasurer James Cromwell said: “Today the court stood up for the right of the national board to self-determine its chief negotiator. This ruling is total victory for the rights of SAG members. SAG hired Bob not in spite of his background, but because of his background. It was a conscious, strategic decision that our union would benefit from his unique strengths, particularly at the negotiating table. We can only hope these individuals will stop forcing the union to waste its members’ dues pursuing these types of frivolous lawsuits. It is now time for staff to get back to the business of fighting for the rights of working actors."

Gilbert added: “The individuals who brought this lawsuit put their own self-interest, bias and personal agenda ahead of the larger good of the union, wasting the Guild’s time and precious resources every step of the way. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they sought to deny SAG members their greatest asset when we needed it most. These individuals arrogantly believed that their individual judgment should trump the decisions of the two separate national boards of directors. And they did so knowing the cost to the Guild – both in terms of members’ money wasted and the toll their actions could have had on our current negotiations with producers.”

About SAG

Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is the nation’s largest labor union representing working actors. Established in 1933, SAG has a rich history in the American labor movement, from standing up to studios to break long-term engagement contracts in the 1940s to fighting for artists’ rights amid the digital revolution sweeping the entertainment industry in the 21st century. With 20 branches nationwide, SAG represents nearly 120,000 working actors in film, television, industrials, commercials and music videos. The Guild exists to enhance actors’ working conditions, compensation and benefits and to be a powerful, unified voice on behalf of artists’ rights. SAG is a proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Headquartered in Los Angeles, you can visit SAG on-line at www.sag.org.