February 4, 2008


Dear AFTRA Member:

Last summer, the AFTRA members you elected as delegates to the 2007 AFTRA National Convention voted by a ten-to-one margin to seek a full and direct charter with the AFL-CIO, a move that would make AFTRA a full partner of the nation’s largest labor federation.

I am pleased to report that AFL-CIO President John Sweeney issued a direct charter to AFTRA on February 1, 2008. 

“This is a big step forward for all professionals who entertain and inform America. It means more power, tools, and resources for AFTRA in dealing with the digital age and in a diversified industry that now includes not only radio and television, but cable and pay TV, the internet, interactive media, satellite media, and so many new formats and business models,” President Sweeney said in a recorded message to our National Board. You can watch the complete video message at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD5okHyfDxY.

This is truly a historic moment. The direct charter puts AFTRA on an equal footing with other AFL-CIO unions, which will facilitate our work with unions like the Communications Workers of America, IATSE, and the American Federation of Musicians, with whom we share employers and interests in the entertainment and media industries. It also means we have the full support and assistance of the AFL-CIO as we move forward to win even stronger agreements for the Network TV Code, Primetime Exhibit A, Sound Recordings, and other contracts.

The AFL-CIO has also decided – a decision with which AFTRA agrees – to work towards integrating the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (Four A’s) within the Department for Professional Employees Arts, Entertainment and Media Industry Coordinating Committee, of which AFTRA is already a member. This will allow AFTRA to continue to work with the Four A’s during and after the transition process:  a win-win situation for all.

In other important news, your National Board reaffirmed AFTRA’s forward progress in negotiating new collective bargaining agreements with employers. The Board recognized the Screen Actors Guild’s material breach of the “Phase One” joint bargaining agreement, which began last July with their approval of “bloc voting,” has effectively terminated the Agreement.

You can expect to hear a lot of distortions, mischaracterizations, and outright untruths from SAG about this subject, as well as find plenty of attempts on SAG’s part to minimize the significance of the AFL-CIO’s decision to grant us a direct charter. Given SAG’s refusal to acknowledge its material breach of the Phase One agreement – not to mention its recent false statements about certain non-existent “conditions” that are supposedly attached to our new direct charter – I can only conclude that SAG’s current leadership is either ignorant or dishonest, or perhaps both.
Every AFTRA member is urged to read the entire resolution regarding Phase One at http://www.aftra.com/press/nb_resolution_phase1_terminated.html, to fully understand the history, complexity and import of the current situation. This is not an issue that can be conveniently understood through simple bullet points or catchy slogans, and I urge you to read this resolution in its entirety.

Despite AFTRA’s longstanding and continuing commitment to the Phase One Agreement, under the current circumstances AFTRA must move forward, and act responsibly. We plan to negotiate your agreement for primetime TV programs and other contracts previously covered by Phase One, on our own, as we do with many of our other contracts, including the Network Code. Your elected leadership cannot abdicate our fiduciary obligations by allowing another institution to dictate the terms of your contracts or by permitting the internal political disputes within another institution to interfere with our negotiating timelines.

The resolution reaffirmed prior authorization given to AFTRA's 2008 “Primetime Steering Committee” to function as the W&W Committee for the Primetime Exhibit A negotiations. The resolution also confirms that the Steering Committee can determine the schedule of negotiations necessary “for AFTRA to negotiate and secure the strongest possible agreement on behalf of performers.”

The AFTRA Network TV Code negotiations are scheduled to begin February 19, with the goal of concluding negotiations on or before March 7. The Network Code covers actors and all on-camera and off-camera talent on all forms of television programming: syndicated dramas, daytime serials, game shows, talk shows, variety and musical programs, news, sports, reality shows, and promotional announcements. 

“Exhibit A” of the Network TV Code sets terms for network primetime dramatic scripted programming. AFTRA’s W&W process is currently underway and is scheduled to be completed by early March. AFTRA has advised the employer representatives that your union is prepared to meet its responsibilities to commence negotiations as soon as the Network Code negotiations are concluded.

AFTRA members’ TV contracts govern more than 70% of network TV programming. The talents of AFTRA members are critical to the networks’ ability to program all their day parts. For all the challenges that face us, these are exciting times for AFTRA members, filled with amazing opportunities for growth and new jobs. As our industry evolves in this new digital era, so does our union. Our new charter from the AFL-CIO is an unmistakable reflection of AFTRA members' progress. We should be proud of what it signifies about our members as we move forward together.

I was heartened by the news this weekend that the Writers Guild of America seems to be making progress in its talks with the studio heads. And, of course, we are encouraged by the success of the Directors Guild of America in negotiating its agreement with the AMPTP. AFTRA members can stand confident in our own solidarity and strength to negotiate strong contracts on behalf of our members.

I am honored to serve as your President—and look forward to working with you to fight for good union jobs that provide the strong compensation, benefits, and working conditions you deserve. Please, email unity2008@aftra.com with your ideas, suggestions, and comments.

In solidarity,

AFTRA National President






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