Showbizreporting's Blog

June 2, 2009

The New York SAG Board (APR. 3, 2009)

A Message from New York Division President Sam Freed

To the New York Membership:
 A tentative deal has been reached on our Commercials Contract.  The proposed contract, unanimously approved by the joint negotiating committee, must now go to the joint Boards of both SAG and AFTRA for approval and then be ratified by the membership.  
 This negotiation marks a tremendous accomplishment for both our unions and the industry.  We should all be incredibly proud and thankful for the work done by the joint committee that consisted of both elected and volunteer members.  The national Chairs of the Committee, New York Secretary Treasurer Sue Anne Morrow for SAG and National President Roberta Reardon for AFTRA should be especially congratulated for their leadership.  Lead negotiators John McGuire, Mathis Dunn and Ray Rodriguez were equally masterful in negotiating a deal that will serve our membership for the next 3 years.
 You will be provided with more details about the proposed contract once the joint Boards approve it.  But in short this deal preserves Class A residuals, increases minimums across the board, increases pension and health contributions and sets standards for the internet and new media.
 The solid gains in this proposal are made even more phenomenal considering the economic atmosphere in which they were made. I am eager to present them to you for your consideration and ratification.
 We are moving forward.
 In Solidarity,
 Sam Freed
 New York Division President


AFTRA/SAG Commercial Agreement (APR. 1, 2009)


NEW YORK (APRIL 1, 2009)—Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists announced today that the AFTRA/SAG Joint Negotiating Committee has reached a unanimous tentative agreement with the Joint Policy Committee (JPC) of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) on terms for successor agreements to the AFTRA Television and Radio Commercials Contracts and the SAG Television Commercials Contract, subject to approval by the SAG/AFTRA Joint National Board.


The new three-year agreement contains a more than $36 million increase in wage rates and other payments for all categories of performers in the first year of the contracts, approximately $21 million in increased contributions to the SAG Pension and Health Plan and the AFTRA Health and Retirement Fund, establishment of a payment structure for work made for the Internet and other New Media platforms, important new monitoring provisions, and improvements for choreographers, extras, and Spanish language performers.

The new contracts also contain an agreement in principle outlining terms for a pilot study for the purpose of testing the Gross Rating Points (GRP) model of restructuring compensation to performers as proposed by Booz & Co. The two-year study is scheduled to commence on April 15 and will be conducted by a jointly retained consultant engaged by the Unions and the Industry. The results and possible adoption of the study’s findings will be subject to negotiation by the parties not later than January 3, 2012.

The unions successfully protected the critical “Class A” payment structure and continued unchanged the editing provisions in the existing contract.

Highlights of the new agreement include:

•    Three-year agreement, term effective April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2012
•    5.1% overall increase in wages and other compensation over the life of the contracts, including a 4.43% increase, effective April 1, 2009, in Class A, Wild Spot, and basic cable session fees
•    For product made for the Internet or in New Media, 1.3 times the minimum session fee for 8 week’s use and 3.5 times the minimum session fee for one year’s use
•    0.5% increase in the employer contribution rate to the AFTRA H&R and SAG P&H plans bringing the total contribution rate to 15.3%. The agreement provides for a cap on P&H and H&W contributions, but the committee successfully negotiated the industry from their initial demand of $250,000 to $1,000,000 per performer, per contract, per year.
•    Secured five, new covered jobs for commercial extras, up from 40 to 45
•    Established new exclusivity provisions for made-for cable only commercials
•    Instituted, for the first time, a contract provision to pay extras a round-trip mileage fee of $8
•    Increased foreign use payments under the Spanish Language section of the contract

“The AFTRA and SAG commercials contracts provide our members with the solid foundation they need to sustain their careers and families,” observed AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon and AFTRA Chair of the Joint Negotiating Committee. “In this round of negotiations, during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we successfully improved wages and expanded benefits to keep our members working now and in the future. This is a major victory for our unions—and a victory for organized labor as a whole—and I applaud the Joint Negotiating Committee for their vision, hard work, and solidarity.”

“I am so proud of the work of our Joint Negotiating Committee. It was a hard-fought negotiation and our greatest victory was in protecting Class A residuals payments.  By securing a joint study to research and develop a workable compensation model, our negotiating committee protected every member who works under these contracts across the country,” said Sue-Anne Morrow, Screen Actors Guild Chair of the Joint Negotiating Committee.

“Our Joint Negotiating Committee held together in the face of some very tough issues and they stood firm for our core principles.  We have achieved a deal that brings significant improvements to these contracts. Our gains include establishing the first-ever payment structure for made-for-the Internet and new media commercials and significant increases in wages during a very troubled global economy. I am proud to take this tentative deal to our Joint National Board,” said John T. McGuire, Screen Actors Guild Chief Negotiator.

“The Joint Negotiating Committee provided us with clear objectives borne out of the nationwide Wages and Working conditions meetings leading up to the negotiations,” said Mathis L. Dunn, Jr., Chief Negotiator for AFTRA and Assistant National Executive Director for Commercials, Non-Broadcast, and Interactive Media.“ Among the priorities, our members asked us to increase minimum compensation and preserve Class A. We achieved those objectives and more, including agreement on a test study that will allow for a meaningful exploration of how best to adapt our contracts to meet the changing needs of all performers working in the shifting landscape of new technology.”

Formal negotiations between the 26-member AFTRA/SAG Joint Negotiating Committee and the Industry began on February 23 and concluded on the morning of April 1 in New York City.

Details of the new agreement will be submitted to the SAG/AFTRA Joint National Board for approval at a date to be determined, and if approved, will be jointly mailed to the membership of both unions for ratification thereafter.

DAVID WHITE (APR. 1, 2009)

Dear Screen Actors Guild Member,

I am very pleased to inform you that early this morning, the SAG/AFTRA Joint Commercials Negotiating Committee, under the capable leadership of John McGuire, Mathis Dunn and Ray Rodriguez, reached a proposed deal on the commercials contracts. The committee voted unanimously to recommend this agreement to the SAG/AFTRA Joint National Board for approval and membership referendum.

I would like to express my congratulations and sincere appreciation to the members of the negotiating team for their hard work and dedication during this challenging process.

Please take a moment to review the below news release which provides some details about the proposed agreement.

In unity and looking forward.

David White

Blog Stage: Acting in Film, TV, Theatre: In AD talks, There’s a Whisper of Strike, but Don’t Worry Yet (Mar. 17, 2009)


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In Ad Talks, There’s a Whisper of Strike, but Don’t Worry. Yet.

UPDATE: Correcting the composition of SAG’s half of the negotiating committee and adding a statement from SAG-AFTRA.

For actors, there’s bad news, good news, and bad news: The bad news is their unions are planning to ask them for a strike authorization to give them leverage in ongoing talks with the advertising industry; the good news is that the potential conflict figures to be nothing like the freeway pile-up that has characterized attempts by the Screen Actors Guild to get a new TV-and-film contract from the networks and studios; the bad news is, when the performers’ unions are involved, you can’t figure on anything.


A source close to negotiations told reporters that a strike-authorization ballot could go out to all members of SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which are bargaining jointly across the table from the advertisers. The source contends that advertisers are asking for rollbacks, including: the elimination of the traditional payment structure for Class A (i.e., national commercials on the five major broadcast networks); caps on contributions to the unions’ pension-and-health plans; stretching the workday from eight hours to 10, which would reduce overtime pay.

A spokesperson for the advertisers was not immediately available to comment.

Later in the day, SAG and AFTRA issued a statement that played down the strike authorization:

“We are making every effort to negotiate a fair contract and remain optimistic that we will bring these talks to a successful conclusion. Today, there was an unauthorized distribution of a draft strike authorization letter. This is one of many contingency documents that we prepare in the course of any negotiations, particularly as we approach the expiration of a contract. Our members understand that this is a normal part of the bargaining process.We will continue to bargain in good faith with the industry in an effort to get a deal.”

Before actors storm the ramparts or worry that they will be out of work more than usual, there are two things to consider, according to a longtime union insider experienced in negotiating. 1) If the strike authorization ballot is sent out, it will be coming not from one wing of one union, but from two unions. “The negotiating committee is made up of 13 AFTRA members and 13 SAG members, [seven] of whom come from SAG-Hollywood,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “It’s a much, much better balanced negotiating committee than” the SAG TV-and-film negotiating committee, which had been dominated by Membership First, the Hollywood-based faction known for its hard-line posture toward management. The committee was replaced by a task force when the national board fired national executive director Doug Allen and replaced him with David White and John T. McGuire.

2) The Joint Policy Committee, which negotiates on behalf of advertisers and advertising agencies, does not usually begin bargaining seriously until the unions have strike authority in hand. In effect, the JPC wants the unions to get strike authority before getting down to brass tacks. “Most of the time, the two sides will negotiate for a few weeks, everybody makes a presentation, they break off for a week or so, and then they [the unions] send out the strike authorization,” the source said.

Other union and management sources contacted during the past few weeks have pleaded ignorance when asked if seeking strike authority is a standard part of the commercial-negotiating choreography. Nevertheless, that the source told Back Stage that this would happen before talks began may lend credence to the theory.

The unions require 75 percent of voting members to approve strike authorization before negotiators could stage a walkout. This could be one reason why SAG’s national board, which is controlled by a slight majority of self-described moderates, has not yet sent out a strike referendum to assist them with the TV/film negotiations. Two concurrent strike referenda, particularly in the current economy, might have been too risky a political move. If one or both of them failed, it would have been disastrous for union negotiators, leaving them with no leverage in trying to negotiate performers’ two most lucrative contracts.

Carefully choreographed or not, the potential move for strike authority still carries a risk, given that actors in SAG, which has more than 120,000 members, are working on no fewer than six expired contracts, including ones for broadcast TV-and-film and basic cable. The commercials contract expires in two weeks.

“This is unprecedented,” said the source of SAG’s situation. “It’s craziness.”

–Andrew Salomon

CORRECTION: A previous posting misstated the number of negotiators from SAG Hollywood. There are seven, not nine. We regret the error.

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