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AFTRA National Board Approves Proposals for Sound Recordings and Network Television Contracts

Posted July 20, 2011

Explores Schedule Adjustment to Prioritize Sound Code Negotiations and New Union Discussions

Seattle, Wash. (July 20, 2011) — The National Board of Directors of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO – a national union of more than 70,000 recording artists, broadcasters, actors, singers, dancers and other performers and professionals who work across the spectrum of media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings and digital media – convened its July 19-20 face-to-face plenary meeting prior to the 63rd AFTRA National Convention which starts on Thursday.

The AFTRA National Board approved a package of proposals for the renegotiation of the AFTRA Sound Recordings Code, the Union’s second largest national contract, which covers recordings on all media and all music formats, as well as audiobooks, comedy albums and cast albums. The Sound Code will expire on Dec. 31, 2011, and negotiations with the major music labels are scheduled to commence on Aug. 15 in New York City.  The negotiations are conducted between AFTRA and the major record labels (SONY, BMG, EMI, Warner Music, and Universal Music Group) as well as the Disney family of record labels

The Board also approved a package of proposals for the renegotiation of the AFTRA Network Television Code “Front of the Book,” the Union’s largest national contract which is currently scheduled to expire on Nov. 15, 2011.

The “Front of the Book” covers all types of programming in television, except for local and national news broadcasts and primetime dramatic programs on the networks and The CW. It includes dramas in first-run syndication, morning news shows, talk shows, daytime serials (soap operas), variety, reality, contest and sports. Current programs covered by this contract include “Good Morning America,” “The View,” “The Price is Right,” “Days of Our Lives,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “American Idol,” “Monday Night Football,” “Survivor,” “20/20,” “Deal or No Deal,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” among many others.

The members of the National Board unanimously authorized AFTRA’s negotiators to explore an adjustment to the negotiating schedule of the Network Television Code. The adjustment would enable AFTRA members to focus on their immediate bargaining of the Sound Recordings Code. Further, it would permit the new union discussions with members of the Screen Actors Guild to continue in the early fall, and with the full participation of AFTRA member leaders and professional staff.

“The Sound Recordings Code is an important contract for thousands of AFTRA recording artists in large, small and emerging markets across the nation,” said AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, who serves as the Union’s Chief Negotiator on both contracts. “A slight adjustment to our negotiating schedule for the Network Television Code is a reflection of AFTRA National Board’s commitment to take care of AFTRA members’ business. It will help ensure that as the music industry continues its tumultuous evolution, our recording artists’ Sound Code negotiations receive our full attention. We are making clear that AFTRA is coming to the bargaining table in three weeks fully prepared and ready to advocate strongly for our recording artist members’ needs.”

The National Board approved a recommendation by staff to continue the AFTRA Television and Radio Commercials contracts for a period of one year which would move the expiration dates both contracts from March 31, 2012 to March 31, 2013.

Board members today approved a new, landmark Organizing Incentive Program to provide AFTRA Locals additional support to continue building organizing programs to increase union density in local markets. In 2009, Delegates the 62nd AFTRA National Convention in Chicago approved an increase to the Union’s initiation fee with all new funds directed to support the AFTRA organizing initiative.

Phil Denniston, AFTRA National Director of Organizing, who developed the new program, presented it to the Board saying, “The 2009 Convention Resolution was a good start towards building the organizing capacity within AFTRA to carry out the type of organizing campaigns needed to survive and thrive in the future. Member mobilization is inherently the jurisdiction of AFTRA Locals and for new organizing to be effective, Local members must be full participants. This new incentive program will better position this Union to embrace new organizing opportunities and mobilize local members throughout the country for upcoming contract negotiations.”

A key feature of the Organizing Incentive Program is an annual “matching fund” from the dedicated organizing revenue raised by the initiation fee increase with earmarks for both local and national organizing campaigns.

The members of the National Board unanimously approved sending a Resolution to the AFTRA National Convention affirming its “commitment to the process of uniting AFTRA and SAG” into a “strong, unified successor union committed to organizing,” and further, confirming that “all prior Convention Resolutions regarding previous merger attempts will have no further applicability.”

President Reardon said: “We are working to build a new successor union and this effort is critically important to union members who work in our industries, as evidenced by the fact that  the universe of our work is reflected in the members who were appointed in May 2011 to the AFTRA New Union Committee. We are not building this new house out of sand. We’re building it out of rock, and you are that rock.”

At its previous meeting on May 14, the AFTRA National Board instructed the AFTRA New Union committee to begin meeting with SAG no later than June 30, 2011 in order to develop a merger agreement, a constitution and a dues structure for presentation to the AFTRA National Board by the end of January 2012.

The AFTRA National Board of Directors unanimously passed a motion expressing support for the national Joining Forces initiative which was launched earlier this year by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to support American service members and their families. The Board’s motion formally endorsed the Joining Forces Inter-Guild Task Force which was created by AFTRA, DGA, SAG, WGA-West and the Producers Guild of America to provide creative and production support for the initiative, and to inform and inspire their memberships about the service and sacrifice of America’s military families.

In other action, the Board approved a Finance Committee request for an expenditure to facilitate several upgrades and enhancements to AFTRA’s award-winning website, AFTRA.com.

The next meeting of the National Board will take place on the morning of Sunday, July 24 following the conclusion of the 63rd AFTRA National Convention, when the newly elected Board will be formally seated.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, are the people who entertain and inform America. In 32 Locals across the country, AFTRA members work as actors, broadcasters, singers, dancers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audio books, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet and other digital media. The 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists of AFTRA are working together to protect and improve their jobs, lives, and communities in the 21st century. From new art forms to new technology, AFTRA members embrace change in their work and craft to enhance American culture and society. Visit AFTRA online at www.aftra.com.

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