Tuesday, May 18, 2004

SAG Rates may increase as union prepares for possible strike this year.

The article, from The Hollywood Reporter, below discusses Melissa Gilbert campaigning for a hike in membership dues for the Screen Actor's Guild. For those of you who don't know, Laura from Little House is President of the Screen Actor's Guild. The article stresses the desire, on behalf of some, to merge SAG and AFTRA and the amount that cost members from their dues, but I think a stronger reason for the hike is the need to increase Strike coffers. SAG negotiated a short-term deal with Producers last year and needs time to raise money to fight for residuals and health care costs etc. An understandable and strong strategy, particularly if other unions contracts come up at the same time (a likely occurance). One of the major hot ticket issues in the industry has been DVD residuals and pretty much everyone wants a piece of that profit pie.

What I did find particularly interesting in the article is the scale of dues:

"Under the proposal, base dues for those members who do not earn any money in a given year will rise from $100 to $130.

Those earning up to $200,000 annually would pay dues of 1.95%, up from the current 1.85%. The highest increase falls on those in the highest bracket -- from $200,000 to the cap at $500,000. Their dues would increase from 0.5% to 1%.

The initiation fee will rise from $1,356 to $2,085."


You'll notice that if you don't work at all you currently have to pay $100 a year. Not much, but something. The highest percentage are paid by low and middle-class actors (highest percentage rate, not necessarily highest percentage of total dues paid). And that the wealthy actors, who may pay the most in actual dues, have the lowest percentage rate. I think this is funny, because if you were to propose a tax system based on this percentage scheme people would go nuts. Let's see, you didn't work last year you owe the government 100 bucks. You made between $1.00 and $200,000, you owe us 1.85% of your income. You made more than $200,000 and less than $500,000 you owe us .5% of that. Oh, you made $20 million, you owe us .5% of $500,000. I don't see that as a popular tax system. Especially when reducing the highest tax bracket (which happens to be the richest people and has no cap) by one to three percent while not decreasing the tax burden for all others (or leaving it the same for those who don't pay taxes) sets off alarms by most Hollywood types. Interesting side note, since being married I no longer qualify for Earned Income Credit, which is too bad. I liked getting paid by Uncle Sam more than I paid in taxes as a refund. EIC, is actually extra income for those who make too little. Unlike some on this list, I am not necessarily opposed to such a program, but it is very different than charging people who make nothing $100.

Gilbert stumps for SAG dues hike
By Jesse Hiestand

SAG president Melissa Gilbert issued a message to members Monday urging them to ignore a number of "myths" intended to defeat a proposed dues increase.

"They propagate myths intended to scare the membership," Gilbert said in the message e-mailed to the guild's 110,000 members.

The source of the alleged disinformation was identified only as a "small minority" who apparently oppose the referendum in order to score political points. Gilbert's tenure has been marked by a number of showdowns with a core group of opponents who are galvanized against such initiatives as the consolidation of SAG and AFTRA.

In an attempt to bridge this divide, secretary-treasurer James Cromwell, an architect of the dues increase, presented the proposal to the opposition and invited their input before it was ultimately approved by SAG's national board in April.


Guild leaders now are concerned that efforts are still being made to undermine the proposal even with the membership referendum vote well under way.

"They claim the dues increase is needed because funds were 'given away' to AFTRA when in fact we save money by sharing services with our sister union in cities across the country," Gilbert said. "They claim we overpay our professional staff when we actually oftentimes underpay them compared with other organizations."

While it was not raised in this message, some of the opponents also were concerned that the real intent of the dues increase was to raise money to again attempt a SAG-AFTRA consolidation. Gilbert and SAG national executive director Bob Pisano told the national board that that was false and that, while they still endorse consolidation, it will not be pursued this calendar year because attention will be focused on contract talks in the fall.

Gilbert's message focused on the potential benefits of generating an additional $7.3 million in dues revenue, which is intended to boost the reserves, build a strike fund and pay for capital improvements.

"The more you earn, the more you pay," Gilbert said. "Your national board, with the help of a broad and bipartisan group on the finance and strategic planning committees, crafted a fair plan that is above politics."

Under the proposal, base dues for those members who do not earn any money in a given year will rise from $100 to $130.

Those earning up to $200,000 annually would pay dues of 1.95%, up from the current 1.85%. The highest increase falls on those in the highest bracket -- from $200,000 to the cap at $500,000. Their dues would increase from 0.5% to 1%.

The initiation fee will rise from $1,356 to $2,085.


Copyright 2004 The Hollywood Reporter


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