AFTRA Achieves Two Milestones at National Board Meeting:
Receives Direct Charter From AFL-CIO and
Affirms Joint Bargaining With SAG is Over
LOS ANGELES and NEW YORK (February 3, 2008) - In a major endorsement of its standing as an independent union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) announced at its national board meeting yesterday that it has been granted a direct charter by the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation.
"This is truly a historic moment for our union," said Roberta Reardon, National President of AFTRA, a national union of more than more 70,000 performers, journalists, broadcasters, recording artists, and other talent working in the entertainment and news media. "I want to thank President Sweeney and the AFL-CIO Executive Council for their thoughtful consideration of our request. By placing us on an equal footing with other AFL-CIO unions, our direct charter will make it easier for us to work with unions like the Communications Workers of America, IATSE, and American Federation of Musicians, with whom we share employers and interests in the entertainment and media industries.
"It also means we can now count on the full support and assistance of the AFL-CIO as we move forward to win strong agreements for the Network TV Code, Primetime Exhibit A, and other contracts," she said. "For all the challenges that face us, these are exciting times for AFTRA members, filled with amazing opportunities for growth and new jobs. As our industry evolves in this new digital era, so does our union. Our new charter from the AFL-CIO is an unmistakable reflection of AFTRA members' progress. We should be proud of what it signifies about our members as we move forward together," Reardon said.
The actual announcement was made in a videotaped message to the AFTRA board by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. "This is a big step forward for all professionals who entertain and inform America and I think it will make your union a stronger advocate for you in your workplaces and in your growing and changing industry," said Sweeney. "It means more power, tools, and resources for AFTRA in dealing with the digital age and in a diversified industry that now includes not only radio and television, but cable and pay TV, the internet, interactive media, satellite media, and so many new formats and business models."
In another major step, the National Board approved a resolution that sets the stage for AFTRA to move forward on its own in negotiating new collective bargaining agreements for members.
The resolution affirms the union's position that the Screen Actors Guild abrogated the "Phase 1" joint bargaining agreement in July 2007, despite AFTRA's longstanding, unwavering commitment to joint bargaining with SAG under the terms of the Phase 1 Agreement as written and practiced since 1981.
"AFTRA has a responsibility to move forward and negotiate our agreement for primetime network TV dramatic programming," said Reardon. "We cannot abdicate our fiduciary obligations to AFTRA members by allowing another institution to dictate the terms of our long-standing contracts or control our negotiating timeline."
The resolution reaffirmed authorization for AFTRA's 2008 Primetime Steering Committee to function as the Wages and Working Conditions Committee for the AFTRA Primetime Exhibit A to the Network Code negotiations. The resolution also confirms that the Steering Committee can determine an appropriate schedule of negotiations "in order for AFTRA to negotiate and secure the strongest possible agreement on behalf of performers."
AFTRA is currently coordinating with SAG to co-host wages and working conditions process. The AFTRA resolution states this will continue as long it "deems possible and practical" but notes this is not a "joint" wages and working conditions process. The AFTRA resolution received an 89-percent affirmative vote.
The charter from AFL-CIO caps a process that began last July when delegates to the AFTRA National Convention voted by a ten-to-one margin to seek direct affiliation with the AFL-CIO. In addition to granting the charter to AFTRA, Sweeney recommended integrating the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (the Four A's) into the AFL-CIO's Department for Professional Employees and its Arts, Entertainment, Media Industry Coordinating Committee, of which AFTRA is already an active participant. The AFL-CIO indicated that it would also grant direct charters to Actors' Equity and SAG upon request of the respective unions.
"AFTRA has strong respect for the Four A's, and its traditions and history," added Reardon. "The direct charter is a win-win for all as it provides AFTRA the standing our members deserve within the AFL-CIO, but allows us to continue all the positive aspects of working with the Four A's."
Other highlights of the AFTRA National Board meeting:
* The Uptown Animation Agreement with Nickelodeon was approved; the new deal will run through 2012. The agreement brings terms and conditions in line with the AFTRA Standard Computer Generated Animation Agreement. It also continues to provide payments for an array of internet and digital media uses.
* It was confirmed that negotiations for the AFTRA Network TV Code are set to begin February 19. The Network Code covers actors and all on-camera and off-camera talent on all forms of television programming: syndicated dramas, daytime serials, game shows, talk shows, variety and musical programs, news, sports, reality shows, and promotional announcements.
* The Board authorized the appointment of a steering committee for the Non-Broadcast/Industrial Code-covering instructional, educational, sales promotions, conventions, point-of-purchase, and other productions-which will develop a schedule for contract proposals and negotiations.
* The Board approved a process to expedite ratification of the AFTRA Sound Recordings Code, should negotiations with the record labels that are scheduled to resume on February 4 result in a tentative agreement. Major issues in that negotiation include compensation structures for digital downloads and health and pension benefits for recording artists.
More details about the board meeting, including video and a copy of the resolution, can be found at www.aftra.com.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO is a national labor union of over 70,000 actors, singers, dancers, announcers, and other broadcast talent performers, journalists and other artists working in the entertainment and news media. With 32 local chapters across the country, AFTRA promotes the success and welfare of members in a variety of ways, including contract negotiation and enforcement, advocating on legislative and public policy issues, supporting equal employment opportunities, and sponsoring or supporting health and retirement benefits and programs. For more information, visit http://www.aftra.com.