Secretary Treasurer Letter, Summer 2009

After the turbulence of the recent past, getting SAG’s house back in order has been a top priority. Our goal for the 2009-10 fiscal  year was not only to minimize losses, but to continue to strengthen the organization by refining and redefining how we do business. Looking back  at our financial performance for the past 12 months, I’m pleased to report that we have managed to do both.

As of this writing, the books aren’t quite closed for the last fiscal year but it appears that we’ve succeeded in cutting our projected losses nearly in half.  Wise investments in a cooperative stock market contributed, but credit also goes to our chief executives,  whose “do more with less” mantra inspired our staff to make the most of every dollar. We now have a leaner organization that is still delivering the services we need, but in a way that is much more sustainable going forward.

That said, SAG’s income comes almost entirely from dues and initiation fees and, for reasons I described in October, that revenue isn’t growing at the rate that we’ve come to expect. We count on growth in these revenue streams to compensate for inevitably rising costs of doing business, but for many reasons – including increased division of the TV market- we can’t expect substantial improvement in the immediate future.

To deal with this reality for the upcoming fiscal year, staff went to work once again to find innovative ways to maintain valuable services without mortgaging our future. No more layoffs are planned,  but each time a position opens up a careful analysis is made to determine if someone must be hired to fill it or if the duties can be dealt with in other ways. To conserve resources and make SAG more resilient for the future, there’s also been a major push to phase out inefficient and outdated business practices and take advantage of technological advances to streamline our operation.

Making sure that SAG is healthy – fiscally and otherwise – has never been more important. Of course it’s always critical that the Guild be on firm footing heading into negotiations, and the TV and Theatrical contract talks start in a few months. We need to know that, along with negotiating partner AFTRA, we have the resources to do it right and are coming to the table from a position of strength.

On top of that, renewed talk of a possible merger with AFTRA only reinforces the need for SAG to be fiscally sound.  (See the SAG/AFTRA Relations Task Force update on page __.) First, we need to ensure that we can perform the necessary research and due diligence should we choose to move ahead. But even more important, we know that the best way to enter into the conversation with AFTRA is as a strong partner equally committed to making two great organizations into one that is even better.

Financially speaking, there’s no question in my mind that pooling resources and eliminating duplication of expenses by forming one performers’ union is the only way to maximize the value of every dues dollar we pay. And it’s inarguable that a single union can get better contracts than two competing unions could ever achieve – and better contracts mean more dues revenue.

That’s a conversation I’m eager to have. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to focus on making SAG as financially healthy and strong as it can be, for the upcoming negotiations and to continue delivering the services and protections you need and deserve.

Amy Aquino