June 8, 2008

Dear AFTRA Member:

On Friday, your AFTRA National Board overwhelmingly approved the tentative agreement reached on May 28 with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on a new three-year primetime television contract (Exhibit A of the AFTRA Network Television Code). In the next week or so, you will be receiving a detailed summary of the agreement along with a ratification ballot.

The Board’s 91% vote to recommend this contract to you affirms the hard work of your fellow performers, all of them volunteers, who served on the AFTRA Primetime Negotiating Committee. Despite working long hours under very trying circumstances, they stayed focused on our priorities and the real needs of our membership—in particular, on boosting wages in real terms for working actors in a time of economic crisis.

These 31 men and women—working performers whose experience in the industry include credits as cast members and guest stars on past and present series such as “24,” Beverly Hills 90210,” “Brothers and Sisters,” “CSI,” “Eli Stone,” “ER,” “JAG,” “Judging Amy,” “Law & Order,” “Lipstick Jungle,” “Without a Trace,” and countless others—understood and met the challenge of pushing forward performers’ priorities at a time of difficult transition and turmoil in our industry. By placing members’ needs over institutional politics, they displayed both good sense and great courage.

It would obviously have been easier for them to have given up in the face of a powerful adversary and gracefully backed away from negotiations without reaching a conclusion. The more difficult choice was to push forward and negotiate a strong contract that contained real improvements and no give-backs—knowing all the while that no matter how good the resulting agreement, political interests would drive some to vilify their work. In the end, your committee persevered and did the right thing, achieving a solid contract that will sustain and enhance the community of professional performers in nearly every category over the next three years.

Like the agreements reached earlier this year by both the Directors Guild and the Writers Guild, our new primetime contract is based on extensive research and reflected our recognition of the rapid changes, technological and otherwise, that face all of us who work in the entertainment and media industries.

This business-like approach to collective bargaining is the hallmark of AFTRA. Put simply, AFTRA members’ basic objective is to negotiate agreements that ensure two things: establishing and maintaining strong wages and working conditions—and creating real job opportunities through which we can earn them. One doesn't make sense without the other.

Your negotiating committee and the elected leadership of your National Board, have a fiduciary and moral obligation to always push forward toward achieving our priority—even against criticism and politics—to serve AFTRA members' best interests. And they have done so with grace, good humor, and fearlessness on your behalf.

There's an old saying that politics is the art of the possible. In our view, so is collective bargaining. You need to be tough and determined, but you must also be strategic and forward thinking. Responsible unionism is not about posturing and rhetoric, but about setting firm goals, defining priorities, and moving forward intelligently to achieve them.

The goal of the negotiating committee was to forge an agreement that protects your rights and maximizes your opportunity to make a good living at the craft you love. The AFTRA National Board believes strongly that the primetime contract just negotiated does exactly that. The board also believes that when you've had a chance to study the agreement, you will feel the same—and vote YES for ratification.

In solidarity,

ROBERTA REARDON
AFTRA National President

 

 

 

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