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SAG to cut lay off 35 workers to help close deficit

Hollywood's largest actors union is suffering from a drop in investment income and shrinking dues, which are based on how much members earn.

April 21, 2009|Richard Verrier

Hollywood's largest actors union is cutting 8% of its staff in the face of investment losses and declining membership dues.

The Screen Actors Guild plans to lay off about 35 workers to help close a $6.5-million deficit in the union's fiscal 2009 budget. The cuts affect several departments and include those who work in the union's organizing and information technology departments, according to people familiar with the matter. Affected workers will be notified this week. SAG has about 440 employees.

David White, interim director of the Screen Actors Guild, briefed board members Saturday on the planned layoffs when they approved the union's annual $60-million annual budget. White told board members the cuts were needed to balance the union's budget and leave enough cash in reserve to cover at least six months of operations.

SAG's revenue has been hit on two fronts: investment income, which is down sharply because of the decline in stock markets, and membership dues, which are tied to how much actors earn.

Fewer actors have been working as studios curtail production on movies and TV shows. SAG also has lost work to its rival union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, whose labor contracts now dominate prime-time TV pilots.

At the same time, SAG's expenses have risen sharply. Over the last two years, the guild has added 100 people to its staff, partly for organizational outreach activities.

The Writers Guild of America, West, recently cut 10% of its staff to close a budget shortfall, which guild officials blamed on investment losses and a sharp falloff in jobs for writers during the last year, when the guild waged a 100-day strike.

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richard.verrier@latimes.com

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