Showbizreporting's Blog

December 8, 2009

SAG, AFTRA FACE DEADLINE

SAG, AFTRA face deadline
Unions must decide soon if they are to negotiate together
By DAVE MCNARY

The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists are facing a looming deadline within the next few months if they’re going to negotiate together on the primetime-feature contract with the majors.
The performers unions haven’t yet taken any formal steps toward joint bargaining, even with SAG obligated to begin seven weeks of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on Oct. 1. The current SAG and AFTRA master contracts — negotiated separately for the first time in three decades — both expire on June 30, 2011.

AFTRA president Roberta Reardon has held informal discussions recently with SAG prexy Ken Howard about the issue. She admitted that a decision by AFTRA will probably be made before the end of the first quarter, given that both unions require several months for a “wages and working conditions” process of meetings with members to hammer out contract proposals prior to the start of bargaining.

“We’ve had a lot of internal discussion about joint negotiations but we haven’t formalized anything,” she told Daily Variety. “We would do it if it were something that’s to the advantage of all our members.”

SAG declined to comment on Reardon’s statements.

Reardon noted that AFTRA’s also facing looming expirations on two of its other major contracts — sound recordings, which expires June 30; and network code, which ends on Nov. 15. The AFTRA netcode pact covers about $400 million in annual earnings from dramatic programs in syndication or outside primetime, daytime serial dramas, gameshows, talkshows, variety and musical programs, news, sports, reality shows and promotional announcements.

“We have a little bit of a pileup in terms of scheduling,” Reardon added.

She also said that no definitive steps have been taken toward a SAG-AFTRA merger, voted down by SAG members in 1999 and 2003, indicating that combining the unions remains a long-term goal. “I got into AFTRA politics eight years ago because I believe that performers should be in a single union, but if we’re going to do that, we need to take the time to do it right,” she added.

Relations between SAG and AFTRA hit a low early last year when AFTRA angrily split off from joint negotiations over jurisdiction and reached its own primetime deal. SAG — which still hadn’t shifted control to the moderates — then blasted terms of the pact, which had a relatively low 62% ratification. With SAG not reaching a deal until a year later, AFTRA was able to sign up the lion’s share of this year’s TV pilots that were shot digitally.

In the fall of 2008, AFTRA and SAG agreed to a separate deal aimed at ending the bickering between the unions. Brokered by the AFL-CIO, the agreement included “nondisparagement” language along with fines and other discipline for violators; the unions then agreed to joint negotiations on the commercials contract and reached a new three-year deal with the ad industry last spring.

But the enmity toward AFTRA remains strong in some SAG quarters. Its Hollywood board passed a resolution in May to explore the “acquisition” of actors repped through AFTRA, leading to an AFL-CIO umpire warning SAG it would face “severe” fines for any further discussions of an “acquisition” and ordering the guild to officially disavow the statement.

SAG’s Membership First faction, which controls the Hollywood board, staunchly opposes any merger and contends that SAG should represent all acting work. Howard campaigned as the head of the Unite For Strength ticket, which explicitly advocates combining the unions.

“We should merge to create a single powerful union that covers all the work we do, making it impossible for our employers to divide us,” the faction has noted. “That’s what Unite for Strength is all about.”

SAG and AFTRA have shared jurisdiction over primetime series and the long-standing agreement has been that SAG reps all projects shot on film, while SAG and AFTRA have an equal shot at projects shot electronically. With more primetime skeins shot in high-def digital formats, AFTRA’s electronic purview has greatly expanded in the past two years as nearly all primetime pilots went AFTRA.

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118012309.html?categoryId=13&cs=1

June 10, 2009

Digital Media Law: SAGTV/Theatrical Contract Ratified Overwhelmingly, 78%-22%

Digital Media Law

SAG TV/Theatrical Contract Ratified Overwhelmingly, 78%-22%

In a stunning defeat for the hardline Membership First faction, SAG’s TV/theatrical contract passed overwhelmingly, by a 78%-22% margin (almost 4 to 1), those numbers according to the guild. Variety first reported the story, prior to the guild’s announcement, with a 1% difference in the numbers.

Significantly, even in the faction’s stronghold, the Hollywood division, the vote was an enormous 71% to 29% in favor, or almost 3 to 1. In NY, it was 86% to 14%, and in the regions it was 89% to 11%. There was a large turnout—35% of eligible members voted, far above the typical 20%-25%. The ballots went out to 110,000 paid-up members.

It’s an amazing end to an almost 12 month stalemate, and calls into question the faction’s ability to make any headway in the upcoming SAG board elections. On the contrary, the results suggest that the moderate Unite for Strength faction should make significant gains. That’s because only Membership First will be defending seats in Hollywood , whereas no moderates or independents are up for reelection. Thus, the moderates can only gain, at least in Hollywood . In NY and the regions, Membership First has little support, so, there again, the moderates should prevail.

Another question is the SAG presidency, which is up this year as well. According to Variety, incumbent president Alan Rosenberg announced today that he’ll seek a third term. Given the membership’s overwhelming rejection of his vote No position, that may be an uphill climb, especially if the moderates/independents put forward a high-profile candidate, such as James Cromwell, who has been rumored to be considering a run.

Below are press releases from AFTRA and the AMPTP.

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AFTRA Press Release

AFTRA President Roberta Reardon Applauds SAG Contract Ratification

Los Angeles, CA (June 9, 2009)–In a statement released today, Roberta Reardon, National President of the American Federation of television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), praised the announcement by Screen Actors Guild regarding ratification by SAG members of a new two-year successor agreement to the SAG Basic Agreement and SAG Television Agreement saying:

“On behalf of the more than 70,000 members of AFTRA, I congratulate the members of Screen Actors Guild on their successful ratification of a new television and theatrical agreement. We’re pleased that SAG members will now enjoy improved wages and working conditions, and we applaud their efforts to negotiate a solid new agreement.”

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AMPTP Press Release

Statement by the AMPTP

The ratification vote by SAG members is good news for the entertainment industry. This concludes a two-year negotiating process that has resulted in agreements with all major Hollywood Guilds and Unions. We look forward to working with SAG members – and with everyone else in our industry – to emerge from today’s significant economic challenges with a strong and growing business.

June 3, 2009

Variety: SAG, AFTRA mail out ballots: Members to Vote on New Commercials Pact (MAY 1, 2009)

 

SAG, AFTRA mail out ballots

Members to vote on new commercials pact

By DAVE MCNARY

 

SAG and AFTRA have launched their campaign to persuade about 150,000 members to approve the new commercials pact in what’s expected to be an easy ratification.

The unions mailed out the ratification ballots Thursday, followed by an email message Friday that disclosed plans for holding informational meetings in 18 cities. Ballots are due back by May 21.

Unlike the SAG feature-primetime contract, no opposition’s yet emerged to the commercials deal — which has received unanimous backing from the joint negotiating committee and the joint boards of the two unions.

“We believe this is a good and fair contract and we urge you to vote yes,” said SAG president Alan Rosenberg and AFTRA president Roberta Reardon at the conclusion of a letter to members. The letter was also signed by SAG interim national exec director David White and chief negotiator John McGuire along with AFTRA topper Kim Roberts Hedgpeth and chief negotiator Mathis Dunn.

Rosenberg has been fighting ratification of SAG’s deal, mainly on grounds that its new-media provisions fall short. Ballots for the SAG pact go out May 19 with a June 9 return date.

The commercials deal represents a $36 million pay hike in the first year of the contract and a $24 million increase in pension and health contributions over the pact’s three years. It also preserves the current pay-per-play Class A residuals structure while providing for a pilot study on new compenasation model based on ratings.

The commercials pact, which covers nearly $1 billion in annual blurb work, will be retroactive to April 1 and run through March 31, 2012. SAG and AFTRA staged a bitter six-month strike in 2000 against the ad industry, but the tough economic times plus a shift in control of SAG’s national board to a more moderate faction last fall provided strong indications that a commercials strike was unlikely.

Read the full article at:
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118003084.html

AFTRA URGES PRESIDENT OBAMA TO USE “FULL FORCE” ON BEHALF OF ROXANA (APR. 21, 2009)

  
 

 

AFTRA President Roberta Reardon Urges President Obama to Act on Behalf of Journalist Roxana Saberi LOS ANGELES (April 20, 2009)—Roberta Reardon, National President of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, sent the following letter today to President Barack Obama urging him to pressure the Iranian government to expedite a review of the case against American journalist Roxana Saberi who was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison by an Iranian court last week. President Reardon sent a copy of the letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

 Dear President Obama:

On behalf of the more than 70,000 members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists—the people who entertain and inform America—whom I represent as AFTRA National President, I urge you to please use the full force of your administration to pressure the government of Iran to overturn the egregious eight-year prison sentence of American journalist Roxana Saberi imposed on her last week by an Iranian court.

Ms. Saberi is a professional journalist who has worked for a number of highly-respected news organizations around the world, including the BBC, and whose work has been broadcast across the country on NPR and other national news outlets. Her education and professional career are characterized by an unfailing commitment to excellence, accuracy, respect for others, and an open-minded fairness in reporting a story.

She is an American citizen who has chosen to live in Iran to pursue her career, further her education, and finish her work. Although not an AFTRA member, Ms. Saberi is an esteemed journalist who reported to the world the stories of people unable to make their own voices heard. She is a reporter who told the truth, and in doing so, angered the powerful elite.

We must protect those who speak truth to power, not punish them. I and my fellow AFTRA members are concerned about Ms. Saberi’s well-being, and we are deeply troubled by what appears to be a grave miscarriage of justice and a violation of her rights as an American citizen living and working abroad.

As the National President of AFTRA, the union that represents the voices and faces of professional broadcast journalists around the nation, I urge your administration to request that the Iranian government expedite a formal review of Ms. Saberi’s case and to release and return her to the United States as soon as possible.

I appreciate your attention to the concerns of AFTRA members, and I am available to speak with you at your convenience about this very serious matter.

In solidarity,

Roberta Reardon National President AFTRA

http://www.aftra.com/press/pr_2009_4_20_letter_to_obama.html
 

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