Don’t Let a Few Hijack Our Negotiations

Dear Fellow AFTRA Member,

As your National President, I am saddened to share that at a time when AFTRA and SAG should be uniting, forces in our sister union are trying to drive us apart.

Unfortunately, mounting evidence indicates a faction among the Hollywood leadership of SAG no longer wants the cooperative relationship between AFTRA and SAG that has benefited all performers for decades. Increasing attacks on AFTRA from these quarters are purposely divisive, the most recent of which is an article attributed to SAG's Executive Doug Allen for the fall issue of Screen Actor magazine. This latest attack is not only false, but worse, diverts attention from the most critical issue facing all performers: preparing for the 2008 negotiations of the TV, industrial, and commercials contracts.  

Among the many misrepresentations in Mr. Allen's article is his premise that "since 2002, AFTRA has been trying to cover scripted drama in basic cable," and uses a chart starting from 2001 to support his inference. Whether due to poor research or deliberate manipulation, Mr. Allen's article ignores the fact that there were AFTRA covered scripted dramas from the 1980s through 2001, including 100 Centre Street, Clarissa Tells it All, The Clinic, Hi Honey I'm Home, and others, or that by the mid-‘90s AFTRA had organized and negotiated system-wide agreements covering both dramatic and non-dramatic programming on Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. Mr. Allen's article is replete with similar omissions of fact, manipulated data, revisionist history, and hyperbolic conclusions to suggest that in an area of work legitimately covered by both AFTRA and SAG—basic cable—there is a contest between the two unions.

In truth, the struggle is not between our two organizations, but about the ability of working men and women to exchange differing ideas while remaining united during a time of great change. One set of ideas encourages US-based employment and growth of earnings; another set of ideas may depress job opportunities for the many by preserving employment for a select few. But in all cases, AFTRA believes ideas should be exchanged in collaborative and productive dialogue, and not through politicized propaganda.

AFTRA basic cable contracts provide performers with rates established in our broadcast television contracts—the envy of performers around the world. The subject of how to approach an area as diverse as basic cable has been a priority for AFTRA members since the 1980s. Approaches have evolved with time, but each evolution has succeeded in raising pay and conditions for performers as the cable business has changed, shifted, and diversified during the past 25 years.

We are grateful to the working AFTRA members, such as the members who served on the negotiating committees for the most recent Comedy Central and Nickelodeon Live Action negotiations, who gave their time with great courage to continue the progress in improving rates and conditions for working performers on these networks.

Now, with the manipulative attacks and fear mongering of this faction endorsed and publicly exposed in print by an employee of SAG, it is extremely disturbing to see that:

  • There is a thinly-veiled campaign supported by some SAG paid staff and others, to raid another union—the cardinal sin of treachery within the labor movement.
  • In trying to disparage AFTRA, Mr. Allen’s article has implicitly maligned such esteemed organizations as the Writers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America, which, like AFTRA, have different contract terms for different budget levels in cable.
  • An official communication of a sister union has slandered working performers—volunteers all—who serve their fellow union members through service on the AFTRA National Board in supporting strong contracts and organizing employment for performers in cable and all sectors of our industry.
  • The dues of longtime and loyal SAG members, such as me, are expended on an agenda intended to harm a sister union, rather than focusing on the contracts that I, and thousands of my fellow actors, depend upon.
  • At a time when all performers must unite to make the 2008 negotiations our first priority, precious energy from one of our unions is being wasted on widening divisions and fracturing our solidarity.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW AS A PERFORMER:

  1. Since the elected AFTRA member delegates united at the Convention and affirmed the commitment to organizing new work and maintaining strong contracts, AFTRA members are moving forward: recording artists have campaigned for both performance rights and a new Sound Recordings Code; members in medium and small sized Locals are working together to turn non-union work into union jobs; and of critical importance, AFTRA members are preparing for negotiations of the Network TV Code and six other major negotiations scheduled for 2008.
  2. The AFTRA National Board unanimously voted to approve updates to long-existing contract models for basic cable productions at different budget levels. 
  3. At the same time, the AFTRA National Board also unanimously authorized the reactivation and expansion of the AFTRA Basic Cable Caucus to educate members and provide a forum to exchange ideas. Working performers are being named to this caucus now. 
  4. AFTRA members and elected leadership are focused on preparing for the upcoming negotiations of the non-prime time and prime time TV contracts. These contracts are also the basis for pay rates and conditions in basic cable, and require our unified efforts.

The fact of the matter is this attack on AFTRA distracts from our efforts to focus on one of the most critical years of negotiations possibly in the history of either union.

I encourage and challenge you to become a participant in the work of AFTRA members to build the solidarity performers need to negotiate strong contracts in the 2008 round of negotiations. If you are committed to making a career in these changing industries and to keeping our contracts strong in these turbulent times, I invite you to make the investment in your future by uniting with your fellow performers.

I look forward to continuing our work together as we face the challenges of our 2008 negotiations. 

In Solidarity, 

ROBERTA REARDON
AFTRA National President     


P.S. Our strength at the bargaining table depends on AFTRA members working together. Join with AFTRA members across the country to win strong contracts in 2008.

 

 

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