Success and Progress for AFTRA Members Highlight
Annual Board Plenary Meeting on July 28-29 in New York City
NEW YORK—Directors of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists heard reports of success and progress in entertainment programming, finances, health and retirement funds, organizing, legislative affairs, and other areas at its annual face-to-face Board Plenary meeting on July 28-29.
“AFTRA members are truly poised to meet the wave of change in the media industries and to take advantage of the huge expansion of production in every arena,” said John Connolly, AFTRA National President. “From all over the country and every corner of our industries, AFTRA recording artists, broadcasters, actors, and other entertainment artists are ready to surf the wave of change, rather than be swamped by it.”
“AFTRA is working to bring union standards to performers, broadcasters, and recording artists in all media and in all markets,” said Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, AFTRA National Executive Director. “Every day we’re seeing improvements.”
Joan Halpern Weise, National Director of Entertainment Programming, reported that performers have greater access to work under AFTRA contracts:
• In basic cable, more than 300 new shows, including pilots, specials, and series, have been signed to AFTRA contracts since June 2005, bringing union standards to jobs for artists and professionals.
• In the new English “telenovela” format, two one-hour shows covered by AFTRA contracts will air five days a week this fall on My Network TV.
• In prime time network broadcast television, more than 36 hours of programming are now produced under AFTRA contracts, across all genres, including scripted entertainment, news, and reality.
The financial position of AFTRA improved over the past year, by closing out the fiscal year that ended April 30 more than $800,000 ahead of original projections, as a result of both increased revenues and decreased expenses. Official membership numbers have increased by over 900 members as of May 1, 2006, as compared to May 1, 2005.
Boston’s Shelby Scott, co-chair of the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds, reported on actions by the Funds to improve service to participants and extend retirements benefits for domestic partners of participants. In addition, the retirement fund is in a strong position with a balance of more than $1.85 billion.
The Board also approved a new supplemental dental and vision benefit to members not participating in the AFTRA health program and extended the existing supplemental dental and vision benefits to spouses of retirees. This program is separate from the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds.
CBS news correspondent David Browde and AFTRA New York Local Executive Director Stephen Burrow were elected to fill vacancies among the trustees to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds, which is a separate organization from the union.
National Board members also elected Roberta Reardon and John Connolly to fill vacancies on the Board of Directors of the AFTRA Foundation, an independent foundation that supports charitable and educational initiatives that benefit AFTRA members and the industry as a whole.
The AFTRA Heller Memorial Foundation, which provides scholarships to AFTRA members and their dependents, announced that 24 scholarships had been awarded during the past year.
Reports from working groups on efforts to give more performers and broadcasters a voice at work through AFTRA in interactive media, audio books, Spanish language media, and regional markets were received by the Board.
In recognition of service to AFTRA members and the community, Founders Awards were given to New York member Martha Greenhouse, Chicago members Fern Persons and Bob Baron, and recently-deceased Portland, Oregon, member Rhoda Williams; and Angel Awards were given to New York member Janette Gautier and Los Angeles member Jay Gerber.
The Board praised efforts by AFTRA members to help lead an effort in Congress to eliminate individual performer fines for indecency violations—and they endorsed renewed efforts by the Legislative and Public Affairs Committee to oppose new media ownership rules being proposed by the Federal Communications Commission that would silence voices in the media.
The Board Plenary was the first held under the restructured Board, which reduced the number of Board Members. The next meeting will be by videoconference in New York and Los Angeles later this fall.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists—affiliated with the AFL-CIO—is a diverse national union representing more than 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, sound recordings, commercials, industrial non-broadcast, interactive games and the Internet. For more information, visit www.aftra.com.