March 29, 2008
Dear AFTRA Member,
AFTRA's primary goal is to improve and protect the working lives of performers. During the past year, AFTRA has fought hard and expended an enormous amount of time, energy and resources to maintain the integrity of our Phase One joint bargaining process with the Screen Actors Guild, so we could sit across the table from the industry with total and unequivocal unity. Unfortunately, SAG leadership has made this impossible. For the past year SAG leadership in Hollywood has engaged in a relentless campaign of disinformation and disparagement, culminating in a recent attempt to decertify a AFTRA daytime soap opera.
AFTRA recently became aware that leaders of SAG have involved themselves in a campaign to encourage cast members on the CBS daytime drama "The Bold and the Beautiful" to decertify AFTRA as their union. The people leading this drive apparently believe that decertifying AFTRA would further the goal of having one union for all actors. In fact, it would do the opposite. If successful, it would leave the performers on "The Bold and the Beautiful" stripped of any union representation and uncovered by any union contract. This situation is sadly not surprising given SAG Hollywood leadership's ongoing campaign of misinformation to disparage AFTRA.
The truth is that the existing AFTRA contract for daytime series provides players with strong provisions regarding crediting, overtime rates, and vacation days. Year after year, AFTRA has consistently won raises and improvements for daytime players—despite the efforts of networks and producers to cut costs at daytime serials. A vote to decertify would strip the cast of "The Bold and the Beautiful" of all these hard-fought gains. To achieve anything close to what the AFTRA contract offers, the cast would have to negotiate from scratch—perhaps even strike—without the support of performers covered by the Network TV Code.
The involvement of SAG leaders in the effort to remove AFTRA from a show covered by an AFTRA contract violates all norms of union solidarity. But this most recent situation, along with the continued and ongoing behavior by SAG Hollywood leadership, which harms all working performers and the labor movement, forced us to confront on the eve of negotiations the very painful question: how could we sit beside SAG at the bargaining table at the same time that its leaders in Hollywood are conspiring to undermine the gains we’ve achieved for all performers?
AFTRA's leadership believes that our union must devote its energies first and foremost to working on behalf of performers, and not waste any more time assessing whether our partner is being honest with us. With this in mind, the AFTRA National Board today voted overwhelmingly in favor of suspending Phase One, and negotiating the primetime television contract on our own. We are now prepared to move forward and negotiate a strong contract for our members as soon as possible.
This action --suspension rather than termination -- was taken with the understanding that many among SAG's leadership are as troubled by the events that have led us to this point as we are, and in the hope that someday, the historic trust between these two organizations can be rebuilt – in the best interests of all performers.
Please check the AFTRA website at www.aftra.com for updates on late-breaking developments.
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