how NOT to make it

notes from a working actor

The trials and tribulations
of Mike Vaughn

(this guy)

Got this note from my former improv coach:


I know you’re the one to ask. What’s up with the Aftra-Sag merger? Why is everyone begging us to vote no? Will there really be no pension or health benefits?

Hope you’re well.

I’ve been struggling to keep my sanity around the SAG-AFTRA noise, but I couldn’t contain it anymore. So I replied with the following rant:

Hey there.
Good to hear from you.

I don’t personally know anyone who’s against the merger. I’m for it, everyone (and every working actor) I know is for it. So who is telling you to vote no? Do they have good, solid, factual reasons for doing so? If they do, I’d like to hear them.

I’ve found that all the materials SAG-AFTRA have presented do answer the questions and issues presented by the non-merger people. Which I believe are…

Pension and Health?
Federally protected for those who have been vested. Nothing changes. Nothing. And post merger, those of us who aren’t vested and who struggle to barely make either pool, can now work towards ONE pool and actually get reasonably close to qualifying for those benefits. What a concept.

Not enough research on how to merge the two guilds?
An impossible bar for any company to make. It’s a subjective request that even if entertained, will satisfy no one. Imagine shareholders and workers wanting approval on every aspect when their company buys another business property. Ridiculous. No one has a crystal ball, not even the best market researchers. It’s a stall tactic.

All those AFRTA people (eeewwww gross) getting in the “actors” union?
1. Who cares? 2. More members increase income and the power we’d have as one union. Better for all, right? And 3. one can’t argue that SAG actors are of a higher caliber. Ever meet a background actor with three vouchers? Yeah. Delightful, aren’t they? Just shelling out the money to be in a union is enough of a challenge for most. Paying $1000 to $2000 means that person is serious about being a guild member, which is all you can really ask.

So… Long story short, I just don’t get the anti-merger folks. My best guess is that it might be mix of leftover SAG arrogance, fear of change, or those thinking their p&h will change (which it doesn’t if you’re vested), or maybe a few non-working actors with nothing better to do.

I sincerely hope we merge, because the status quo is unsustainable.
Again, I would like to hear rational, factual arguments against merger. Let me know if you hear any.


I think what I really wanted to say was “there are way too many stupid people in sag and aftra,” but it may be too much to expect actors to have college degrees, or a basic understanding of business, and be able to deliver a convincing performance as ‘man in background on park bench.’

And she just responded with this today:

Thanks for your reply

You won’t believe it, but Ed Asner did a 6 minute piece on youtube (?) begging everyone not to vote for it.  It would be the end of SAG as we know it.  It would destroy us.  Now, I’ve always adored Ed.  I was more than taken aback when I saw this.  Wish I could remember where exactly I did see it.  There were a couple of other names he bandied about (can’t remember them) but they were impressive.

Still, after reading what you sent, I will vote YES and have faith that everything will fall into place after a while.


Really, Ed Asner? Really?!

8 Responses to “Oh, so you’re anti-merger?
How’s that delusion working for ya?”

  1. “[If we accept this contract and its terms it will be like Jews quietly accepting the ovens of Aushwitz.]” -Ed Asner, on 2008 SAG Theatrical. The stalled contract was merely one in series of quick dominos that eventually helped to finish off Phase 1. AFTRA now signs most TV contracts. The Group you correctly assess as SAG-leftovers – living, I say, in a glass menagerie of yesterday – along with fear & simply a desire to spoil the party, should be known as the Pooh-Pooh Platter. They say pooh to any change or progress that impinges their sanctimonious little club and they pooh on everything.


  2. I’m with ya.
    I’m seriously looking for concrete points from the anti merger side, and finding none.
    But lots and lots of “I don’t like AFTRA!” messages.
    I just watched the Scott Backula anti-merger video and he literally says two things: 1. I want MY feasibility study, and 2. “let’s face it, the current board is run by people who side with AFTRA and we know they are known to just go along with producers,”

    The SAG snobs can be anti-merger all they like, but it’s a shame they provide NO solutions. Only critique.


  3. I want concrete points why a Merger with AFTRA is a good thing. No scare crows just concrete facts. Not probablies, or Hopefullies.


  4. You got it:

    1. Easier to qualify for benefits (p&h) for all working actors. $25k to qualify vs today’s $38k AND having all income go towards that one pool – not spit betweem two.
    2. Negotiating strength and leverage in upcoming contracts. Producers won’t be able to choose a competing contract.
    3. Less membership fee (applies to dual members).
    4. Dues money NOT being spent on duling jurisdictions.
    5. Less fear from one guild that the other guild will undercut (see interactive and tv contracts).

    Just read the facts at:

    And may I point out that you wrote “why is merger with AFTRA a good thing,” which is DRIPPING with an anti-AFTRA sentiment.
    Thanks for illustrating my point.


  5. I would like to respond to Bob’s request for why a Merger is a good thing. I don’t have a website of my own and wrote this on Facebook. If it’s too long I apologize.

    Why I’m voting for the merger of SAG and AFTRA.

    I’ve spent days talking to people on both sides of the issue, listening carefully, watching videos, even taking notes. I’ve learned a lot. So why am I voting for merger?

    As I said, I’ve talked to people opposed to merger. A lot. And you know what? Not one of them, NOT ONE, even comes close to addressing the changing landscape of our industry. Not one will comment on the fact that seven multinational conglomerates own virtually everything we touch, virtually every job we work on. Not one of them mentions the technological changes that we are facing and how that will change the nature of contracts and alters the field on which we will be battling (negotiating.)

    In one video a fellow makes a point about merging SAG with AFTRA, spelling out each title as if that somehow says something. Well you know what? It does, it spells out a big problem I believe that a lot of the anti-merger crowd has: they carry a resentment against AFTRA. And that, I believe, is driving a lot of them. (This is not to say that their concern about pensions is not valid, I’ll address that further down.)

    How do I know that they hold that resentment? Because I had it for years myself. Hell, I even voted for Membership First. And a lot of good that did us. If SAG could take back jurisdiction and do it on our own it would have been done already. I firmly believe that. And if I’m wrong, I know with a fair amount of certainty that it couldn’t be done before we fight the biggest battles of our union in our lifetimes – the complete restructuring of the media landscape. It’s too fucking late, if we shoot down this merger it’s done.

    We can expect television and the internet to completely merge sometime in the not too distant future. What will keep AFTRA from claiming that new turf as theirs and underbidding SAG to get it? Nothing, AFTRA is already moving into commercials that are shot digitally. And when dvds are completely phased out in favor of internet on-demand downloads what is to keep AFTRA for making a claim that that too should be their jurisdiction? Ask any smart fourteen year old and they will tell you that they don’t see the point in dvds, they download whatever they want. Shit, a lot of college kids don’t even watch TV anymore, they just download what they want to see.

    Netflix is producing the new Arrested Development and is now making TV movies and AFTRA now has a history that they can use to point to precedent and lay claim. And as films move more and more into digital?

    The same guy in that video says, “Who is going to benefit from a merger? First it is going to be the producers, they only have to negotiate with one body.” This is pure hogwash. It’s ridiculous. I can’t believe someone said that and the people around him didn’t laugh him out of the room. This contradicts the very idea of unions.

    If you find a small town with only one store selling a certain product and then you introduce another store, one that is friendly and offers the same product more cheaply, what do you think will happen? Ask Walmart.

    The same fellow in the aforementioned video says, “Every time the people that came before us won something, they had to make sacrifices. They had to go on strike.” Right, and you know why we can’t have a strike right now? Because we have two unions battling for jurisdiction.

    But that’s not all, because he misses a key point: the people that went before us had to make sacrifices, but you know what else they had to do? They had to take chances, they had to be willing to dive into the unknown. And perhaps most importantly to this conversation, they had to keep up with the times, to progress as the landscape around them progressed.

    IF we fail to merge these two unions, look to what’s happened in the last ten years. Expect more of the same without a merge, but keep in mind the analogy of a snowball gaining mass and weight as it travels downhill.

    It is the resentment against AFTRA that is dangerous, because it fails to recognize the obvious: AFTRA hasn’t been acting out of a culture of collusion so much as out of a survival mechanism. It has been looking to grow. I’m no fan of AFTRA or what they’ve done, but they’ve done it not out of some lapdog to the producers mentality, they’ve done it because their job is to insure jobs for their members. Do I like the way they’ve done it? Hell no. So. what.

    Resentments are destructive emotions. Dealing on an emotional level is disastrous if you disregard the realities. Every actor knows this. It’s called Motivation. Your playing the part of AFTRA. The scene is done. What was your motivation? It wasn’t to be a lapdog, it was to survive, to thrive. And, scene.

    Merger opponents point out that AFTRA walked away from Phase One. Now, without blaming SAGs leadership at that time, which is really irrelevant, he’s right, AFTRA did that. That’s why we’re in the mess we’re in. But blame is not the answer, we need to find our way out of the forest.

    So why would SAG want to merge with AFTRA? Because SAG is in big trouble if it doesn’t. If things continue the way they’ve been going, with the changes ahead of us, it soon won’t be a strong healthy union. It will be in real, serious trouble.

    Another reason? Because what is it, forty thousand AFTRAs members, the majority of its members, are already in SAG. Those members will no longer be forced to negotiate to undercut themselves. SAG-AFTRA will be 92% Actors. One union.

    I don’t like the convention system of AFTRA, I’d rather stay with SAG’s way of doing things, but that’s not what’s being offered, and I believe that if it were an option it would have been presented by now.

    Some make the argument that the broadcasters in AFTRA aren’t making the actors any stronger. Less than 8 percent of the new union, it doesn’t matter. Besides, in the new SAG-AFTRA union the broadcasters are listed as a different classification. AFTRA is part of the AFL-CIO. Do you remember having to go on strike when another part of the AFL-CIO went on strike. I don’t.

    Ok, pensions. Yes, our pensions are at risk. They are at risk whether we merge or not. How are they at risk if we don’t merge? Because a pension plan needs money coming in to stay healthy. So if AFTRA continues to swallow up jurisdiction, which with the changing landscape they are sure to do, SAG’s sources of income dry up. Then, guess what happens? We all lose. So it’s a matter of which fear you want to counter.

    I believe we need to look to the future, and I believe a merger is the best way to do that at this time. And that’s why I voted FOR merger. SAG-AFTRA.

    Richmond Arquette

  6. Thanks Richmond.

    And thanks Bob, for having the courage to post. We may not agree, but dialog is good.


  7. I wrote an “Open Letter” discussing many of these and also my concerns on labor in the 21st Century. It is “parked” on my own site (while I try to decide Word Press or Movable Type for my blog). Not self-promotion motivated. Email me at the email I submitted and I can reply. Feel free to pass along to Richmond or any others as you decide.

    I am happy that you had courage to publicly post your thoughts and love the conversation on this thread. After this week’s anti-merger rhetoric and latest round of banging the drum slowly I may yet make it public.

    Great stuff here. Thanks, again, Mike et al.

    VOTE YES!!!


  8. p.s. love this from Richmond…

    but you know what else they had to do? They had to take chances, they had to be willing to dive into the unknown. And perhaps most importantly to this conversation, they had to keep up with the times, to progress as the landscape around them progressed.

    Even Capt. Kirk knew it was in the best interest of the FUTURE to make peace with the Klingons.

    Seriously – CBA leads to stronger contracts leads to stronger benefits. Merger means more jobs. Merger means more unionizing the landscape. More jobs, more landscape mean a larger pond from which we all may reap the benefits that keep us thriving and growing.

    With Every Fond Wish,



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