Actions to Raise Standards Highlight AFTRA Board Meeting
One-Year Extension to AFTRA Sound Recordings Code Approved by Board
NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES (May 1, 2006) — Meeting by videoconference at its Los Angeles and New York offices this weekend, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) National Board of Directors took steps to further its commitment to provide a strong voice for performers, broadcasters, and recording artists to improve standards in the entertainment and media industries.
The Board reaffirmed its participation in the AFL-CIO Arts, Entertainment, and Media Industry Coordinating Committee by formally adopting a set of principles for the operation of the new committee that will bring together unions to develop joint organizing and collective bargaining plans.
AFTRA National President John Connolly, presiding from New York, said, “This is a tremendous opportunity to build a forum for greater understanding among labor unions and work together to improve standards for all workers in the arts, media, and entertainment industries. AFTRA is excited to be an active participant in this coordinating committee of 11 labor unions.”
Following a report from AFTRA National Executive Director Kim R. Hedgpeth, the Board approved an agreement to extend the contract with recording labels by one year to June 30, 2007. The extension of the AFTRA Sound Recordings Code provides increases in wages and benefits for session singers. Tentative plans are for talks to begin later in 2006 to allow sufficient time to work through contract issues including wages, benefits, and the impact of new technology on the recording and music video industries.
“This extension gives AFTRA royalty and feature artists, session singers, and audio book narrators the opportunity to make sure their voices are heard by the recording labels as a new Code is negotiated in a complex environment,” said Randall Himes, who was appointed AFTRA National Assistant Executive Director for Sound Recordings in November 2005.
In other action, the Board:
• Established a Regional Organizing Working Group to research commercial, non- broadcast, and other local productions in all regions in the country and develop comprehensive organizing plans. “This is a gigantic step in organizing work for AFTRA members in all our markets across the country,” said Roberta Reardon, AFTRA National Second Vice President.
• Approved the formation of a Spanish Language Working Group to develop and coordinate strategies for organizing Spanish Language entertainment, media, and recordings. “We must continue to assess the right approach to this enormous, growing market, so the thousands of our hard-working colleagues in South Florida, Southern California, Texas, and in cities throughout the country can join the community of other professionals who are protected by AFTRA negotiated industry standards,” Connolly said.
• Approved guidelines for contracts covering content made directly for electronic platforms, such as iPods, Internet, mobile phones, and other devices, which are not already covered under existing AFTRA Codes and Contracts.
• Adopted a combined budget for the National and Local Unions of almost $26 million for the fiscal year beginning May 1, 2006. The budget marks the first year that AFTRA utilizes a combined accounting system for the National and Local Unions. Hedgpeth noted, “The priorities of AFTRA are reflected in the budget approved by our elected leadership. And our number one priority is to ensure there is work covered by AFTRA contracts for all AFTRA performers.”
• Unanimously adopted a resolution condemning proposals by the Bush administration, as described in a report from Sunday's New York Times, to criminally prosecute reporters under espionage laws in an attempt to prevent leaks of information by government sources. "This would have a chilling effect on journalists’ ability to maintain the integrity of a free and open press,” AFTRA said.
• Reaffirmed the current process to explore a joint study of compensation models for performers in radio and television commercials after hearing a report from AFTRA Assistant National Executive Director Mathis Dunn, who serves as chief AFTRA negotiator for Commercials, Non-Broadcast and Interactive contracts. Any final recommendations regarding the study and any extension of the current AFTRA and SAG Commercials Contracts must be jointly reported to the AFTRA and SAG Boards for approval.
Board members received a series of reports on major contract areas such as news and broadcast, sound recordings, and interactive media, as well as an update on TV pilots produced under AFTRA contracts in 2006 and the more than 200 basic cable productions produced under AFTRA contracts during the past 18 months. “AFTRA contracts, covering a wide range of entertainment programming on network television and basic cable, are providing industry standard wages and benefits for AFTRA performers,” said Connolly.
The National Board also received a report from Shelby Scott, Trustee of the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds (and former AFTRA National President), that highlighted significant gains in AFTRA's separate industry-union retirement fund, which was recently ranked among the leaders of pension plans of its size. Changes to health care benefits in 2007 were also outlined that will keep participants in the plan covered through the health care crisis.
This meeting marked the last gathering of the AFTRA National Board under its current structure. As a result of a constitutional amendment passed at its 2005 Convention, the size of the AFTRA National Board was streamlined from 116 members to 70. The new National Board will meet in face-to-face plenary session on July 28 and 29.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists—affiliated with the AFL-CIO—is a diverse national union representing over 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists in 32 Locals throughout the country. AFTRA members work as actors, broadcast journalists, dancers, singers, announcers, hosts, comedians, and disc jockeys in all aspects of the media industries including television and radio, cable, sound recordings, commercials, non-broadcast/industrials, interactive games, and other digital media. For more information, visit AFTRA online at www.aftra.com.