LOS ANGELES - Screen Actors Guild leaders voted on Sunday to ask a federal mediator to step into stalemated contract negotiations with movie producers and if the mediated talks fail, to poll guild members whether to authorize a strike.
More than 96 percent of SAG's National Board of Directors voted in favor of the measure.
"We hope mediation will help move this process forward. This action by the board demonstrates our commitment to bargain with the strength of our unified membership behind us," said Screen Actors Guild National President Alan Rosenberg in a statement.
SAG National Executive Director Doug Allen, who is also the chief negotiator, said the union's number one goal remains securing a favorable contract without a strike.
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Actors in prime-time television shows and movies have been working under the terms of a contract that expired June 30, in the hopes of avoiding a repeat of the 100-day writers strike that ended in February. That strike cost the Los Angeles area economy an estimated $2.5 billion.
The studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said in a statement issued Sunday that they would like to close the SAG contract this year, but SAG negotiators must remain realistic in view of the grim economic climate.
"There is simply no justification for SAG to expect a deal that is in excess of what the other Guilds negotiated in better economic times," the AMPTP statement said. " No matter what SAG does_whether it be authorizing a strike or following a different approach_it will not change the harsh reality that currently confronts our industry."
The actors guild wants union coverage of all shows made for the Internet, and residual payments for actors on made-for-Internet shows. It also demands protections for actors during work stoppages.
The alliance has stuck by a final offer it made June 30, which it said mirrored deals accepted by directors, a smaller actors union called the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and writers following their strike.
The two sides met for 44 days of formal negotiations and failed to come to an agreement.
The SAG resolution "authorizes a referendum and accompanying educational information be sent to the members requesting their authorization for the National Board to call a strike" if the Negotiating Committee deems that talks have failed. The board also voted to add four new members to the Negotiating Committee.
If 75 percent of SAG's 120,000 members vote in favor of a labor action, it would then be up to the national negotiating committee to authorize the strike.