Showbizreporting's Blog

June 1, 2009

A message from Doug Allen to SAG members

Filed under: Entertainment — showbizreporting @ 11:45 pm
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Dear Member:

The Screen Actors Guild National Executive Committee voted to authorize Screen Actors Guild to undertake a campaign to encourage SAG members who are dual card holders to vote NO on the ballot for the AFTRA Prime Time Television tentative agreement.

I want you to know why, as SAG’s Chief Negotiator, I strongly endorse our campaign for a NO vote.

First, a NO vote does not mean a strike.

In fact, it makes a strike less likely because it will send the clear signal that working actors aren’t satisfied with the AFTRA deal and, to get a deal, management will have to do better. It gives us more leverage not less at the negotiating table and makes it less likely we would have to consider the ultimate leverage of a strike. Any sane union leader wants to avoid a strike if at all possible.

This is all about SAG’s negotiations, not the internal operations of AFTRA. We are not interfering in their internal affairs. Not when our negotiations cover the same actors, same networks and studios, ¬same producers, same jobs and not when we represent over 90% of the shows in primetime and pay TV and 100% of movies. The only reason this issue exists is because AFTRA walked away from our joint bargaining relationship and then didn’t finish the job.
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SAG members three-year earnings under the TV/Theatrical contracts exceeded $4 billion. AFTRA members three-year earnings under this contract were less than $40 million. But if the AFTRA deal is ratified, the AMPTP will regard that as a signal from SAG members who are dual card holders that we are done with negotiations and that the AFTRA deal is enough. That is why a NO vote is so important.

The AFTRA deal falls far short of “good enough”. It doesn’t achieve most of the priorities we established in our joint SAG/AFTRA Wages and Working Conditions meetings across the country with hundreds of working actors.

The AFTRA Deal:

* Allows non-union new media production.
* Doesn’t put enough new money in working actors pockets or increase pension/health contributions enough and doesn’t include an increase for mileage.
* Doesn’t provide enough protection to actors negotiating clip consent in the future.
* Provides no increases in DVD residuals.
* Provides no protection from product integration abuses.
* Doesn’t protect collectively bargained force majeure protections.
* Eliminates most residuals for reruns of productions made for new media.

Most importantly, the AFTRA deal allows our signatory employers to produce programming made for new media entirely non-union. The AFTRA deal would pay no residuals for almost all made for new media programming when rerun on new media. Even if SAG overcomes the non-union/no residuals problems and negotiates a better contract, AFTRA’s contract won’t be upgraded with these improvements. AFTRA has no “me too” favored nations clause for improvements, other than for force majeure and exhibition windows. This would set up AFTRA as the cheaper, more producer-friendly alternative in new media. When unions compete with different contract terms, actors lose. It starts a race to the bottom that SAG doesn’t want to win.

AFTRA claims that a “sunset clause” in the deal will provide the opportunity to fix any problems in three-years. Who thinks that the same employers who have refused to improve the unfair home video/DVD formula for over 20 years, will jump at the chance to put new media residuals back in place after they have eliminated them? Or agree to all union productions when they have produced non-union under the same contract? If programming rerun on ABC pays residuals but programming rerun on ABC.com doesn’t, where do you think original scripted programming will quickly migrate?

For all of these reasons, I urge you to vote NO on the AFTRA deal. I do so without any personal or institutional hostility to AFTRA members or leadership. A No vote is not an attack on AFTRA. It is simply a recognition that these negotiations should conclude with a contract that is fair for actors and, one that all actors can support.

Please feel free to respond to contract2008@sag.org with your thoughts and suggestions.

In solidarity,


Doug Allen

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