AFTRA National Board Overwhelmingly Approves
to Suspend Phase One Joint Bargaining with SAG
and Makes Plan to Negotiate Primetime TV Contract on Its Own
Board also unanimously approved the AFTRA Network Television Code and the AFTRA Sound Recordings Code, and adopted procedures for membership ratification
LOS ANGELES (March 30, 2008)—The National Board of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists—a national union of more than more 70,000 performers, journalists, broadcasters, recording artists, and other talent working in the entertainment and news media—overwhelmingly voted Saturday in favor of suspending the joint bargaining process under the Phase One agreement with the Screen Actors Guild and plans to negotiate the Primetime TV contract with employers on its own.
“AFTRA's leadership believes that our union must devote its energies first and foremost to working on behalf of performers,” said Roberta Reardon, National President of AFTRA. “During the past year, AFTRA has fought hard and expended an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources to maintain the integrity of our Phase One joint bargaining process with Screen Actors Guild so we could sit across the table from the industry with total and unequivocal unity. Unfortunately, SAG leadership has made this impossible.
“For the past year, SAG leadership in Hollywood has engaged in a relentless campaign of disinformation and disparagement, culminating in a recent attempt to decertify an AFTRA daytime soap opera. As a result of this continued and ongoing behavior by SAG leadership, which at its core harms all working performers and the labor movement, we find ourselves unable to have confidence in their ability to live up to the principles of partnership and union solidarity. AFTRA believes it must now devote its full energies to working on behalf of performers, and not wasting time assessing whether our partner is being honest with us.
“The board’s approval of a suspension of Phase One—not a termination—was mindful of the fact that there many among SAG's leadership that are as troubled by the events that have led us to this point as we are. We are hopeful that someday, the historic trust between these two organizations can be rebuilt—in the best interests of all performers,” said Reardon.
Given the suspension of joint bargaining with SAG, the AFTRA National Board cancelled the joint meeting with the SAG board and instead continued its special session.
After a review of the recommendations from the AFTRA-SAG Joint Wages and Working Conditions Committee, the National Board unanimously approved the proposals en banc and without amendment to serve as the official AFTRA proposal package for negotiations with employers on the AFTRA Exhibit A to the Network Code that covers primetime dramatic programming. The National Board also approved the Negotiating Committee appointed by AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon, with Los Angeles actor and AFTRA National Treasurer Matt Kimbrough as chair.
The AFTRA National Board also approved tentative agreements reached with employers for the AFTRA Network Television Code and the AFTRA Sound Recordings Code and adopted procedures for membership ratification of the contracts.
In unanimously approving the tentative agreement with the four major television networks and producers on the AFTRA Network TV Code, the National Board noted that the new agreement contains solid increases in wage rates for all categories, increased contributions for the AFTRA Health and Retirement plan, and addresses discrete issues affecting every category of performer. In addition, the agreement preserves significant principles which are a hallmark of AFTRA contracts—such as universal coverage of background performers and contract security for daytime serial contract players.
"This agreement is a major milestone for AFTRA as substantial gains in wages and working conditions for performers were successfully achieved," said Reardon, who also served as chair of the Network Code Negotiating Committee. "This contract is extraordinary for performers and made significant progress on many fronts, including importantly new media jurisdiction and compensation."
The AFTRA Network TV 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. Programs covered by the Code include diverse programs such as "Good Morning America," "20/20," "American Idol," "The View," "The Tonight Show," "Late Show with David Letterman," "Oprah," "The Price is Right," "Deal or No Deal," "Days of Our Lives," "The Bold and the Beautiful," All My Children, "Cake," "Saturday Night Live," "Entertainment Tonight," and "Survivor."
The National Board voted to recommend the agreement in a mail referendum ballot to the entire AFTRA membership.
The National Board also unanimously approved the tentative agreement for the AFTRA Sound Recordings Code—the national contract with the recording industry, which covers royalty artists and session singers who work with the more than 1,200 recording companies, including the four major labels—EMI, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner—and most of their subsidiary labels. In addition to popular music in all genres, the Sound Recordings Code covers classical recordings, Broadway cast albums, Latin recordings, and spoken word recordings, including audio books.
“This is a breakthrough agreement for AFTRA members,” said Randall Himes, AFTRA Assistant National Executive Director for Sound Recordings and co-lead negotiator for AFTRA. “The members of the AFTRA negotiating committee—session and royalty singers, rap artists, and other performers across all fields of recorded music from pop and hip-hop to Latin and country—worked diligently to achieve this contract for their fellow AFTRA members. The challenge of negotiating while the industry is confronting both a digital transition and rampant piracy underscores the remarkable work of the committee members in keeping their focus.”
Highlights of the agreement include wage increases for session performers, improvements in health and retirement coverage for royalty artists, and a new formula for compensation on digital downloads.
In recommending approval of the tentative agreement, the National Board determined that any AFTRA member in good standing who had earnings from the Sound Recordings Code since July 1, 2002, will be eligible to vote on the contract.
In other action:
• Responding to the petition from more than 1,400 performers to define "affected members" for voting on contracts, the National Board authorized National President Roberta Reardon to appoint a committee, to be confirmed by the Administrative Committee, to review the so-called “Working Actors Voice” proposal and report recommendations to the National Board.
• Recognizing the work needed to restructure the AFTRA Non-Broadcast/Industrial Code and to reorganize members and signatory employers, the National Board granted authority to the AFTRA Non-Broadcast/Industrial Steering Committee to seek an extension to the contract that expires April 30, 2008.
The AFTRA National Board is next scheduled to meet in a face-to-face plenary session in Los Angeles on June 6 and 7.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, is a national labor union of over 70,000 actors, singers and recording artists, dancers, announcers and other broadcast talent performers, journalists, and other artists working in the entertainment and news media. With more than 30 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.