Kate Walsh, 30 Others Seek an End to SAG Stalemate

Private Practice star joins group running for spots on SAG's national board in order to challenge contract-averse leadership

By Natalie Finn Jul 24, 2008 12:05 AMTags
Kate Walsh, Amy Brenneman, Private PracticeABC/CRAIG SJODIN

Kate Walsh and Amy Brenneman are engaging in a little private negotiation practice of their own.

The Private Practice costars are among the thespians who have banded together in light of the ongoing stalemate between the Screen Actors Guild and major studios and will attempt to override the union's current leadership by running for spots on SAG's national board.

The group, which has dubbed itself Unite for Strength, opposes SAG President Alan Rosenberg's continued refusal to let SAG members just vote already on the new three-year deal the studios have proposed.

SAG leaders haven't gone so far as to recommend a strike and have signed numerous deals with indie production companies that will keep actors working for some time, but the contract they're currently working under expired on June 30 and time is tick-tick-tickin' away.

Also among the 31 actors on the Unite for Strength platform are Doug Savant, Dulé Hill, The Simpsons regular Marcia Wallace, Adam Arkin and Beverly Hills, 90210 alumna Gabrielle Carteris.

In addition to getting a new contract signed, Unite for Strength is also pushing for SAG to merge with the American Federation of Radio and Television artists, the smaller and less powerful union in town that approved its new deal earlier this month.

SAG leaders have criticized AFTRA for accepting what they believe were the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television's lowball terms.

"As our current predicament makes clear, actors lose out when we face off as separate, warring camps against the media conglomerates in contract negotiations," Arkin said in a statement Wednesday. "I'm concerned for future negotiations if we don't change the leadership that has brought us to this point."

Added Unite for Strength leader Ned Vaughn: "With the immense challenges actors face today, we need all the strength we can muster. And that means electing union leadership that is committed to uniting actors to fight for our common future…

"If we're elected, we'll end the senseless war against AFTRA and work to create a united front of actors to fight for more working opportunities and better jobs. We believe that will ultimately require merging the two unions, and that's a goal we're all pledged to pursue."

About one-third of SAG's 71 board seats are up for grabs this summer. Ballots are expected to be mailed out in late August and are due back Sept. 19.

The AMPTP has given SAG until Aug. 15 to shake hands or else risk losing retroactive wage increases dating back to July 1.

The two sides last sat down together July 16, when two additional hours of negotiations resulted in more of nada.

"Both parties agreed that the contents of the meeting should be kept private. No further meetings have been scheduled," the AMPTP said in a statement at the time.

In an email to SAG members the next day, executive national director and chief negotiator Doug Allen wrote:

"Management’s resistance is frustrating but we have to be patient. The stakes are too high to concede jurisdiction and residuals for programs made for new media. That future is now and, if we ignore it, it will pass actors by and this generation and future generations of actors will never recover."