SAG AFTRA Board’s Matthew Modine Against New Deal With Studios – Upnewsdaily

SAG AFTRA Board’s Matthew Modine Against New Deal With Studios – Upnewsdaily

Matthew Modine voted against SAG-AFTRA’s tentative agreement with the studios once, and he’s damn sure going to vote against it again.

“Consent, in the context of this agreement, is tyranny,” says the National Board member in a lengthy pre-Thanksgiving statement decrying the deal, especially its AI provisions. “It is submission.”

Read Matthew Modine’s full statement against SAG-AFTRA’s tentative agreement below

“If ratified, SAG-AFTRA members who consent will be digitally exploited in ways not clearly defined and are currently beyond our individual abilities to control,” Modine exclaimed. “The US Government, with all its resources, doesn’t know how to create AI guardrails to provide protections for citizens,” the Stranger Things actor added. “SAG-AFTRA certainly doesn’t have the financial resources or technology to navigate the AI tsunami crashing upon the shores of the entertainment industry.”

With eligible members of the 160,000-strong Guild currently voting to ratify the deal reached between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP on November 8 after a 118-day strike that shut Hollywood down, a growing chorus of dissent against the agreement has emerged. In fact, it was evident when the Guild National Board met on November 10 that not everyone was marching in the same direction. The hybrid meeting went much longer than anticipated and eventually saw nine members of the Board, including Modine vote against the deal. That translated into a total approval from the wide-ranging Board of 86% taking the deal to the general membership for ratification. That’s far from the unanimity that was clearly desired by president Fran Drescher and National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.

Presently, with the ratification vote starting on November 14 and running to early December, SAG-AFTRA has only released bullet points and then an 18-page Summary of the deal, not the full 128-page Memorandum of Agreement.

In a posting on social media Wednesday, the recently overwhelmingly reelected Drescher promised the MOA would come out on November 24 at noon PT. “It is the most lucrative, innovative and protective contract in entertainment union history!” Drescher proclaimed in pitch mode.

As two-time failed Guild presidential candidate Modine made clear himself on November 22, and Justine Bateman has made very clear for weeks, not everyone sees the bitterly fought for deal through such rose-colored glasses. In a November 13 information session with members, Drescher took a swipe at “naysayers” and “low-level” critics of the deal. Never mentioned by name, those critics included Bateman, who served as an AI advisor to the negotiating committee, but she made it obvious she viewed them as naïve when it came to the realities of negotiations.

Bateman, in an interview with Upnewsdaily on November 17, rejected that attitude – especially when it came to the so-called AI guardrails. “I just think it’s inhuman and cruel to not tell people what they’re walking into, to not tell people where the loopholes are,” she said. “If you’ve been in the business long enough, you know we’ll be exploited.”

Getty

This week Modine took the stance that rejecting the deal on offer could only strengthen the Guild’s bargaining power with the studios. “Going back to the negotiation room and continuing to work on the issues surrounding AI and consent does not negate nor will it dismantle the benefits the contract now holds,” the Guild leader said of seeking a new deal. “Going back into the negotiating room with a sincere effort to further protect members and to more accurately interpret the rules of ‘consent’ and the uses of AI is the necessary next step we must make,” Modine concluded.

SAG-AFTRA did not respond to this Thanksgiving Day for request for comment on Modine’s statement and POV on seeking a new deal. If and when they do, we will update.

In the meantime, read Matthew Modine’s SAG-AFTRA deal statement in full here:

“Happy holiday season. There’s so much to be grateful for. The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (SAG-AFTRA) can be thankful that the prolonged strike is over. We appreciate the negotiation committee and their attempt to arrive at a fair and equitable deal. While there are improvements and gains, I will not vote to ratify the contract. Members should vote their conscience. I cannot endorse a contract that compromises the independence and financial futures of the performers. As a National Board Member, it’s morally mandatory to stand beside and provide protection for fellow members. Especially those beginning their careers, those unable to defend themselves, and in this case, their identities, their voices, and their physicality, from being taken away by a technology that no one fully understands. It demands a warning to members that says do not consent to the terms of employment defined by the terms within this contract. Consenting to these terms is a pre-negotiation that will take control of the financial and creative future of every working member of SAG-AFTRA. Consent is surrender.

Within the contract, the word ‘consent’ is evoked at least a dozen times. It is purposefully vague and demands union members to release their autonomy. Agreeing to consent means contractually giving a go-ahead to our employers to digitally capture and reconstruct our physicality and our voices using artificial intelligence. Once this information is collected, a member can be regenerated whenever and however the contract holder chooses forever.

In a recent 60 Minutes episode, a conversation between Scott Pelley and Geoffrey, “The Godfather of AI,” Hinton shared a salient warning regarding artificial intelligence. 

Scott Pelley: The risks are what? 

Geoffrey Hinton: Well, the risks are having a whole class of people who are unemployed and not valued much because what they–what they used to do is now done by machines. 

Scott Pelley: What is a path forward that ensures safety? 

Geoffrey Hinton: I don’t know. I — I can’t see a path that guarantees safety. We’re entering a period of great uncertainty where we’re dealing with things we’ve never dealt with before. And normally, the first time you deal with something totally novel, you get it wrong. And we can’t afford to get it wrong with these things.

The union’s marketing department is enthusiastically telling members to approve this contract. You should know that the expenses of making and mailing fliers, not to mention the salaries of the marketing department, are expenses paid for by members. It’s inappropriate for the union to tell a member how to vote without presenting the pluses and minuses of an issue. To do so is disingenuous at best and duplicitous at worst. Members need to understand what they’re signing away by consenting as written within this contract. 

Consent means surrendering your physical and vocal identity to an employer. A Faustian bargain. If this contract is ratified, every contract moving forward may require, as a condition of employment, members to consent to the use of artificial intelligence as defined by an employer. 

 Last week, the SAG-AFTRA National Board gathered and sat through what should be described as a Readers Digest explanation of perhaps the most consequential contract in the merged union’s history. During that meeting, the National Executive Director (NED) explained that it wasn’t necessary to read or discuss the contract in its entirety. Not being fully informed about this contract is like being told that Chicken McNuggets are only made of chicken meat. 

 Imagine how disappointed members would be if they learned what they were actually being fed. Not sharing the entire contract is irresponsible. Spinning the benefits of the contract as “historic” and “seminal” is as disingenuous as McDonald’s saying McNuggets are not grey goop balls filled with chemicals, antibiotics, beaks, ligaments, and chicken butts.

Yes, SAG-AFTRA members will have a right to say “No” when asked to consent. But doing so will no doubt create a three-tier division between members; there will be those members with the financial/career equity to say no and negotiate their own terms. Others will be forced, out of financial or career necessity, to relent and succumb. Surrendering their voices and unique physicality to be digitized and stored within an employer’s hard drive and forever owned. The third tier will be those union members who refuse to consent and lose employment opportunities to those who do consent. The fourth tier is the endgame. Tier four won’t necessitate consent. It won’t contribute any dues to the union. The studios won’t have to negotiate with anyone. They won’t need teamsters to pick up performers, send them to make up, costumes, or feed them lunch. Level four is the non-union synthesized scab performers digitally cobbled together from dead actors. 

Consent, in the context of this agreement, is tyranny. It is submission. If ratified, SAG-AFTRA members who consent will be digitally exploited in ways not clearly defined and are currently beyond our individual abilities to control. The US Government, with all its resources, doesn’t know how to create AI guardrails to provide protections for citizens. SAG-AFTRA certainly doesn’t have the financial resources or technology to navigate the AI tsunami crashing upon the shores of the entertainment industry.

Ratification of this contract will result in greater job reductions — especially for background and stunt performers. This loss of SAG-AFTRA labor will negatively impact our sister unions, primarily IATSE tradespeople and the Teamsters. The use of AI has already financially impacted voice performers in film, television, advertising, and animated films. It’s wonderful having talented performers to voice animated films, but the industry has shown it has no qualms about replacing human actors with digitized “sound-alike” voices. Even monstrously resurrecting voices of performers who are no longer living. 

Union means being joined together in cause and common interests. This was demonstrated by thousands of members over the course of the strike. We marched for a stronger union. We marched for a fair deal and protections. We stood together to ensure our work environments were safe. We must continue to demand financial participation in the work we collectively create. Going back to the negotiation room and continuing to work on the issues surrounding AI and consent does not negate nor will it dismantle the benefits the contract now holds. Going back into the negotiating room with a sincere effort to further protect members and to more accurately interpret the rules of ‘consent’ and the uses of AI is the necessary next step we must make.”

Check Also

Tesla reportedly halts Cybertruck deliveries amid complaints over pedal

Tesla reportedly halts Cybertruck deliveries amid complaints over pedal

Tesla has reportedly paused all Cybertruck deliveries as customers have complained of a potentially fatal …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *