As another potential strike threatens the acting world, a complicated behind-the-scenes battle between two unions supposedly negotiating together on behalf of their actor members has put The Bold and the Beautiful actress Susan Flannery in the spotlight. In a bizarre turn of events, the unions managed to throw the actress under the bus in order in an attempt to be the last union standing.
Two days before a scheduled dual union meeting in March, representatives for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) gave an interview to the LA Times detailing a meeting between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) national executive director Doug Allen, and The Bold and the Beautiful actors Susan Flannery (Stephanie Forrester) and John McCook (Eric Forrester). The meeting was initiated by Flannery and McCook, who were dissatisfied with the way AFTRA was representing the interests of soap actors. In the interview, AFTRA accused SAG of "poaching" the actors. The furor that followed influenced the vote, two days later, to split the unions to negotiate separately.
As respected Hollywood columnist Nikki Finke put it, "It was hardly a secret, much less a scoop, that the Emmy-winning star of The Bold And The Beautiful, Susan Flannery, has for some time now circulated a petition to decertify AFTRA as the union representing the actors on the long-running soap." Finke asserted that a story was deliberately placed with the LA Times, featuring the anecdote about Flannery and co-star McCook.
The meeting was brief, and Flannery and McCook were asked to take their concerns back to AFTRA, but the LA Times barely mentioned the outcome of the meeting and allegedly tweaked the truth somewhat by not printing that Flannery and McCook are indeed members of both unions. Because of that dual union membership, the meeting was perfectly legal and ethical.
This week, Susan Flannery responded with a written statement to SAG to set the record -- and her reputation -- straight. "No cast member of The Bold and the Beautiful has been solicited by any director or elected officer of SAG to leave AFTRA and join them…. Period."
In her statement, Flannery went on to explain her bafflement and outrage that she and McCook were used in this manner to forward such unseemly goals. She takes full responsibility for her decision to look into better representation for the actors on The Bold and the Beautiful and for the meeting itself.
"Just so everyone understands," she wrote, "the idea of exploring the possibility for a new 'Collective Bargaining Agent' began with me. There has been over the past 21 years at B&B a growing dissatisfaction with AFTRA regarding health plans, residuals, pensions, meal penalties, turnarounds etc. In the final analysis, the contracts negotiated on our behalf over the years, in our opinion, have fallen very short of our expectations!"
SAG has maintained that as things are now, it is not the predominant union representing daytime actors. Traditionally, this has been AFTRA's function, and SAG wants to keep the status quo. Suggestions have been made in the media that the unions should merge, or that the redundant union, AFTRA, should simply cease to exist, putting all in the hands of SAG.
However the negotiations work out for actors in general, one additional thing that can be hoped for is that soap opera actors get the respect they deserve. Sidelined in the past, used as pawns and whipping boys in the present, it's clear that is not the case at this point.