May 29, 2008
Dear AFTRA Member:
I am delighted to report that after 17 days of some of the hardest bargaining in which I’ve participated during the past decade as a union leader, your Primetime Negotiating Committee has reached a tentative agreement with the television producers that achieves higher pay and improved working conditions for AFTRA members working on primetime network dramatic programs.
Highlights of our new three-year agreement—known as “Exhibit A” of the Network Code—include:
We will send you a more thorough description of the proposed deal following the AFTRA National Board meeting next week. (For a fact sheet and more information, read the news release at www.aftra.com.) If approved by the National Board, the agreement will be submitted to you for ratification. When you have had a chance to study the details, I think you will agree that the agreement not only achieves meaningful economic improvements for working performers, but it also makes significant progress in the critical and rapidly growing area of New Media.
This victory for performers in the current challenging environment was due to the hard work and long hours put in by your Negotiating Committee, led by chair Matt Kimbrough, and our dedicated staff, led by National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth and New York Local Executive Director Stephen Burrow—all of whom worked straight through the Memorial Day weekend to conclude negotiations at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Based on our experience in this year’s AFTRA Network Code talks—as well as that of the DGA and WGA in their respective negotiations earlier in the year—we knew going into these talks that we would be confronted with some very challenging issues. This is why we felt it was so important for negotiations over actors’ contracts to begin sooner rather than later, and why we worked so hard to make this happen.
It’s also why the working men and women of the Negotiating Committee took a business-like approach to the talks. Fiery rhetoric has its place, but this victory was a direct result of our willingness to keep focused on our priorities while working hard to find creative solutions to the unforgiving realities of the TV business during this time of rapid change.
This was particularly true when it came to New Media. New Media is changing everything. And, yes change can be uncomfortable. But clinging to the old ways is a recipe for disaster; just ask the thousands of AFTRA members in the recording industry. With this in mind, our goal in these negotiations was not to set up barriers to prevent the employers from entering the New Media business, but to ensure that our members have a fair share and a protected stake in that business as it develops.
We also owe our success to the support we received from the entire Hollywood labor community. Following the long-standing tradition of union solidarity practiced by the Writers, Directors, and Screen Actors Guilds, as well as IATSE, we were happy to welcome observers from all of our sister unions to all of our bargaining sessions (excepting only the confidential sidebars that are a standard part of every negotiation). In particular, we are grateful to SAG for its generosity in giving our negotiators the benefit of its earlier experience bargaining with the AMPTP. This was an extremely helpful favor that we are in the process of returning.
I look forward to discussing the terms of our new agreement with all of you in the very near future. In the meantime, please join me in thanking—and congratulating—our negotiating committee and staff for the magnificent job they have done.
260 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016