Tuesday, March 15, 2011

35 years of union in Nevada, Happy Birthday SAG

We are Union
By Art Lynch

National Board Director, Nevada

Wages and working conditions are the foundation of any union. They keep us safe and pay a fair wage. Collective bargaining is how we negotiate to secure the foundation our members need (union wages are a floor, not a set rate or ceiling). Right now the collective bargaining rights of many of our brothers and sisters are under attack in Wisconsin and at least two other states. Quite simply, we cannot afford for the recession and resulting budget deficits to be used as an excuse to weaken union protections and our ability to represent each other as brothers and sisters to negotiate for safety, security and a fair wage. I urge Nevada SAG members to do all we can to support our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Do not for a moment think that this is not your fight. We also have a target painted on our backs by the same forces behind any attempt to weaken our fellow unions in the public sector.

More Than 35 Years of Union Activism

Working conditions also led to the birth of the Nevada Branch. While on the set of the 1971 James Bond movie Diamonds are Forever, SAG members from Nevada were exposed to conditions they considered abusive. With the help of National, they stood up and changes were made. That passion led to the organic growth of the Nevada Branch, officially added to the Guild’s branch system 35 years ago.

I urge you to attend the March 27 Nevada SAG membership meeting to celebrate our birthday!

More Than 20 Years of Guild Service

At our membership meeting, we will also honor the longest-serving president in Nevada SAG history, Steve Dressler. As most of you know, I worked with Steve on the council when I was Branch president and as your elected representative on the National Board of Directors. While he modestly does not advertise it, Steve pulled no punches in talking with staff, officers and National Board members as he worked effectively to represent Nevada’s membership.

Together, we helped bring an office and local executives to Nevada to expand our background zone, to raise national recognition of the needs of all Branches operating under the federally mandated limitations of “right-to-work” laws, and to keep Nevada high on the radar of board members from Los Angeles, New York and other Branches. Most of the work of a Branch president is done in committees, in sidebar conversations and in more paperwork than most of us can appreciate.

Our Birthday Celebration

Please join me in thanking Steve Dressler, President Barbara Grant, your Nevada Branch officers and council, and all those who have served the Nevada membership as we celebrate our official birthday.


Many members have asked if we are closer to a merger with AFTRA. Yes, but that does not mean it will be a done deal.

The national presidents and the boards of both unions are committed to the need to join together as the power wielded by management increases, technology blurs the lines and opposition to, or a misunderstanding of, unions spreads in geography and numbers.

In truth, when change comes, it will most likely take the form of a new union with its roots and history in both Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

But When?

As soon as possible is the best answer, but that could, for legal, logistical and political reasons, be a year or years away. The unions need to continue in the best interests of their membership as we focus on joint negotiations, organizing in a difficult marketplace and providing for the needs of our members. And as occurred the last two times the unions worked to join together, the will of the membership as ballots hit the mailboxes will leave any future uncertain up until the final moments.

What Can I Do?

For now, focus on helping President Grant, our Executive Director Steve Clinton and your council build the Nevada Branch and continue to keep us active and strong.

Support Local Employment

Support – within the limits of the SAG rules we are bound to as members of a union, such as Rule One, which states that you may not work non-union – all Nevada-based production and talent industry-based companies. Show them SAG is on their side. Encourage them to use SAG talent and sign SAG contracts. This includes working only through SAG franchised agents. Every dime a non-union agent (or manager working incorrectly as an agent) earns is a dime that discourages our growing union agent pool from following the rules and supporting our union.

Encourage SAG Signatory Status

You have the power to nudge employers toward becoming signatory to our contracts. When we had a physical office, there were seven local signatories. Today we have none. True, in many cases those companies used primarily out-of-town talent, but then so do films, industrials and commercials coming to town. The opportunity for locals can only grow if we are ready and willing to work, and if the work opportunities are there in the first place. A first step is to increase the amount of union work on the plate.

Be Prepared and Professional on the Set

Do the job you are hired to do and do it to the best of your professional training, ability and desire.

Encourage Others to Join the Nevada Branch

The reality is that there is strength, financing and political voice in numbers. Qualified professional talent, particularly those in the younger age groups and needed ethnic representation, must be encouraged to join our Branch as union actors. If they do not, the non-union talent pool will remain strong enough to discourage the use of union actors. As always, the members of other branches who live in Nevada need to be encouraged to join the Branch. Whether their manager or agent handles money in another city, or they still identify with where they used to live, we need their support and membership to strengthen the state in which they live! It is that simple…we need them.

Become Active in a Committee

As members, you can take the lead on all of these actions and more, in the name of strengthening our union, thanking our union for what it has done, giving back to our union and in the drive for more union work in Nevada. Individual actions are strong and require no cooperation. Groups and active committees can combine talents and drive into a sum greater than the individual parts. I encourage such a committee to be considered by the membership, and come from the membership level up.

I am looking forward to seeing you at our March 27 membership meeting.

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