September 1, 2008
To AFTRA Members,
We are writing you on this Labor Day holiday as we celebrate the contributions American workers have made to the strength and vibrancy of our nation. Regardless of category or type of employment, like all union workers, AFTRA members stand strong for the basic principles of organized labor -- freedom to organize and bargain collectively and the right to have fair wages, protections, and benefits in return for their labors and talent.
As we celebrate Labor Day, we look forward to AFTRA members' new challenges and opportunities in moving those principles forward in our day-to-day work. AFTRA members and staff are working on implementing details of the new Sound Recordings Code, and moving forward our legislative work on copyright protection for performers. AFTRA will soon roll out informational material and programs for members who work under the AFTRA Television Agreement to assist you in understanding your new contracts in primetime and non-primetime programming. AFTRA members at CBS and other broadcast companies are coming together to address the impact of HD radio and new technologies on their working lives. AFTRA members around the country will soon begin intense preparations for negotiation of our Television and Radio Commercials Contracts, which have been extended to March 31, 2009. More immediately, we are preparing to address the AFTRA Interactive Agreement.
With respect to the Interactive Agreement, yesterday afternoon, an elected officer of the Screen Actors Guild Hollywood Division circulated an email regarding the AFTRA Interactive Agreement to performers around the country, many of whom are AFTRA members. The insertion by an officer of another labor organization into AFTRA’s internal collective bargaining processes has again generated unnecessary confusion and the dissemination of inaccurate information. It is hoped that the facts outlined below, will address any confusion that email may have caused you.
- The AFTRA Interactive Agreement has been in existence for two decades since AFTRA members first organized the area of interactive gaming to ensure that they, and the working performers that came after them, had the protection of union rates and conditions. AFTRA was the first performers’ union to organize and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with Electronics Arts and since then AFTRA members have continued to expand union protections for performers working in this field. The Interactive Agreement is not now, nor has it ever been, a contract negotiated under the Phase One Agreement between AFTRA and SAG.
- The current AFTRA Interactive Agreement is set to expire on December 31, 2008. In June 2008, the AFTRA National Board authorized the appointment of an Interactive Steering Committee (ISC) to guide strategic approaches for negotiations of the Interactive Agreement in 2008. In authorizing this Committee, the National Board was keenly aware that the Commercials Contracts expire on October 29, 2008, (now extended to March 31, 2009), and wanted an authorized working group of performers invested in the Interactive field to actively monitor and ensure that progress towards reaching a timely successor Interactive Agreement was not overlooked during the intensive preparations necessary for the Commercials Contracts.
- The ISC was appointed from among working AFTRA members who have substantial employment under, and working knowledge of, the AFTRA Interactive Agreement. The ISC consists of working AFTRA performers from the three major centers of AFTRA’s Interactive employment: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. During the month of August, the ISC also met with groups of working members from these and other cities. Every one of these members has substantial work experience under the AFTRA Interactive Agreement, and is also a dual card holder.
- Members of the ISC and working groups have provided their talents on games such as Grand Theft Auto, Gears of War, Halo II & III, Final Fantasy, Trilogy III, Mercenaries, Metal Gear IV, Speed Racer, Godfather II, Batman, Unreal Tournament, Halo Wars, Spiderman III, Lord of the Rings, CSI 3, Kane and Lynch, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars Force Unleashed, to name just a few. We are deeply appreciative to these working AFTRA performers who are volunteering their time to participate in and guide our process, and for sharing their extensive experience and understanding of this field on behalf of their fellow performers.
- The ISC has determined that it is in the best interests of working members to attempt to resolve a successor agreement sooner rather than later, and it would not be in the best interests of working performers to delay our work and possibly compromise timely implementation of any wage increases and improved conditions that are ultimately negotiated. To that end, it is in the best interests of performers to hold off-the-record conversations with representatives of the AFTRA signatory employers in early September to determine if a framework for reaching a successor agreement in a timely fashion is possible. Once we have had an opportunity to determine whether reaching an acceptable framework is possible (or not), meetings will be held for AFTRA members working under the AFTRA Interactive Agreement for their information and input. Those meetings have not yet been scheduled, but we anticipate they will be held in late September.
- The ISC members have also determined that, having successfully achieved more than 30% increases in base rates in our 2005 negotiations, establishing a structure for residual or “back-end” payments is one of the priorities that must be addressed in reaching a successor agreement in this 2008 cycle.
- We are all committed to executing a sober, thoughtful and strategic approach to reaching a strong successor agreement for working performers. As such, AFTRA will not engage in any discussions in the press, on blogs, or viral e-mails nor allow the AFTRA Interactive Agreement, or any other contract, to be used for political purposes. Official notices of informational meetings where AFTRA members can receive accurate complete information and provide their input will be sent to interested members later this month.
We were also pleased to learn that during recent discussions with FIA’s English-speaking unions, our sisters and brothers in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia are also committed to coordinating efforts in the future to raise conditions for performers worldwide.
We wish you all a safe and happy Labor Day as we celebrate the achievements and contributions of AFTRA members and the proud traditions of American Labor which enrich our society.
National Vice President
National Chair, Interactive Steering Committee