Dear Fellow AFTRA Member:

The 2007 AFTRA Convention was one of the most successful and uplifting for AFTRA members in recent memory. The delegates you elected to represent you at your union’s highest governing body did Herculean work on your behalf in committee meetings, in caucuses, and during formal session at the Convention. As I’ve committed to do – especially for members who didn’t attend this year’s Convention – I will provide follow up reports which expand on the work that your elected member delegates accomplished in Philadelphia.

One of the historic actions taken by the elected delegates – actors, announcers, journalists, singers, recording artists, and other categories of members -- was to vote, by an overwhelming 91% majority, to seek direct affiliation with the nation’s largest labor federation: the AFL-CIO. To better understand the import of this decision, here are answers to questions that I’ve been asked:

Why affiliate with the AFL-CIO?
Our members work across diverse jurisdictions: TV, radio, internet, non-broadcast, sound recordings, to name a few. Changes brought on by digital technology and corporate consolidation require new strategies, faster responses, and increased research, organizing, and negotiating capacity for any union working in these industries. A direct charter with the AFL-CIO places AFTRA on an equal footing and in a better position to work closely with other AFL-CIO unions which have overlapping employers and interests in the entertainment and media industries, such as CWA (NABET and Newspaper Guild), IATSE, the IBEW, and the AFM, as well as our continued partnership with SAG and Actors Equity.

Isn’t AFTRA already part of the AFL-CIO?
AFTRA has historically had an indirect affiliation with the AFL-CIO, as a branch of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (the Four A’s). Directly affiliating with the AFL-CIO would place AFTRA as an independent and autonomous union within the Federation, with all of the rights and responsibilities of other direct affiliates and with complete control of our own destiny in determining our relationships, partnerships, and alliances with other unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

What other unions in the entertainment and media industries are direct affiliates of the AFL-CIO?
The American Federation of Musicians (AFM), Writers Guild of America-East (WGA-E), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE).

Would AFTRA leave the Four A’s as part of this process?
Yes. By taking steps to affiliate directly with the AFL-CIO, the Convention authorized withdrawal from the Four A’s.

If AFTRA leaves the Four A’s, can AFTRA members now work non-union theater, film or in another Four A union’s jurisdiction?
No. As members of AFTRA, we are bound by the AFTRA Constitution that continues to provide that we are subject to discipline for working non-union in the jurisdiction of a Four A's union.

This was not an oversight, but a conscious decision. Specifically, Article XXXI of AFTRA’s constitution requires that AFTRA members honor “do not work” orders applied by sister unions in their jurisdictions. For example, AFTRA is working closely with Actors’ Equity on a joint outreach and education program to educate professional performers that members of one union cannot accept non-union work in the jurisdiction of a sister union (for example, non-union tours in AEA’s jurisdiction or non-union commercials in AFTRA’s jurisdiction). This obligation, and such cooperative efforts, will not change as a result of our direct affiliation with the AFL-CIO. Also, AFTRA has historically honored such principles even with non-Four A’s unions, such as CWA/NABET or WGA-East when these unions have faced work stoppages, job actions or lockouts.

The Four A's include Actors Equity Association (AEA), the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA), and the Guild of Italian American Actors (GIAA).

It’s extremely important to remember that AFTRA covers network, syndicated and local TV programs (dramatic programs as well as non-dramatic programs such as variety, talk informational, educational, news, sports, promos, etc.), cable TV, traditional and satellite radio, audio books, interactive games, TV and radio commercials, non-broadcast industrials, sound recordings, music videos, and new media (such as advertising or programs designed for Internet or wireless distribution). Any AFTRA member offered employment in any of these fields should contact the local AFTRA office first to learn if there is an AFTRA contract in place to cover the work before accepting the job.

Would this prevent a merger with SAG?
Direct affiliation in no way inhibits a merger with SAG. AFTRA members remain on record as approving the structures for merging with SAG sent to referendum in 1999 and 2003 respectively.

Does this change mean AFTRA will merge with some other union in the AFL-CIO?
No. A merger with any other union requires a vote of AFTRA’s members as provided in the AFTRA Constitution. No such vote is before the members or contemplated.

Will AFTRA be required to endorse political candidates?
No. Many unions in the AFL-CIO, like AFTRA, have policies against issuing political endorsements. The AFL-CIO has always respected the policies of such unions, and understands the nature of our membership and AFTRA’s policy in that regard.

Why Now?
The 2005 Convention received a report on strategic organizing and areas where AFTRA members can turn non-union work into union jobs. Over the past two years, AFTRA members have been working to implement internal changes to realize the goals outlined in that report. Further, during the next 12-18 months, we will have to negotiate eight national contracts, in addition to the contracts that must be negotiated in every local around the country.

Given these challenges and the power of the employers we must bargain with, doing business the old way is simply no longer tenable. We must work more strategically with other unions in the media industries to organize more work opportunities, negotiate stronger contracts and provide greater leverage for actors, singers, broadcasters and other performers in a radically changing environment. Direct affiliation with the AFL-CIO is the surest route to ensure our ability to take full advantage of such partnerships.

In order to accomplish this, it was necessary to bring the matter to AFTRA’s highest governing body – the AFTRA National Convention. The next regular AFTRA Convention does not meet until 2009. AFTRA members cannot wait another two years to confront digital technology and corporate employers that grow more powerful every day. The solid vote by the members elected to the Convention to affiliate directly with the AFL-CIO – with 91% saying “yes” -- demonstrates the importance of acting boldly, and acting now.

Now is the time for us to move forward and explore partnerships that—with your support—will provide the necessary leverage to negotiate better contracts for all members.

Join your fellow AFTRA members by signing up for local committees or volunteer by contacting me at: President@AFTRA.Com. Let’s work together to protect and improve jobs for AFTRA members.

In solidarity,


Roberta Reardon
National President 


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