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AFTRA National Board Sends Primetime TV Contract
to Membership for Ratification

New Agreement Provides Higher Pay, Improved Working Conditions,
and Preserves Performer Consent for Use of Excerpts in New Media

LOS ANGELES (June 7, 2008) – The National Board of Directors of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) overwhelmingly approved and sent to its membership for ratification the tentative agreement its negotiating committee recently reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on a new three-year primetime television contract (Exhibit A of the AFTRA Network Television Code) at its meeting yesterday.

“The working performers on the AFTRA negotiating committee worked hard to craft a new AFTRA agreement for primetime television that makes sense for all performers,” said AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon. “AFTRA members now have the opportunity to vote ‘yes’ for higher pay, improved working conditions, and continued right of consent for use of excerpts in New Media.”

AFTRA--the nation's second largest performers’ union--represents more than 70,000 actors, recording artists, broadcasters, and other talent working in the entertainment and media industries.

The National Board approved the new labor pact by a 91% margin. Highlights include:

• Increases in base pay rates in each year of the contract.
• Increases in employer contributions to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Plan to 15% in 2009.
• Significant increases in “major role” minimums and overtime pay for three-day players.
• A raise in the number of covered background actors in Los Angeles.
• Improved terms and conditions for performers on CW programming.
• Confirmed union coverage over programs produced directly for the Internet and New Media.
• New residuals structures for paid Internet downloads (electronic sell-through) and ad-supported streaming that increase the rates currently paid by employers.
• Preservation of the bedrock principle of performer consent for non-promotional use of excerpts in New Media.
• Expanded access to data on New Media transactions plus a sunset stipulation on all New Media provisions, which will allow both sides to revisit this area with fresh and informed viewpoints when the agreement expires in 2011.

Negotiations with the AMPTP over the AFTRA Primetime TV contract began on May 7. They concluded on May 28 with a tentative agreement that was unanimously recommended for approval by AFTRA’s 31-member negotiating committee chaired by actor Matt Kimbrough.

AFTRA primetime TV dramas and situation comedies include “Rules of Engagement," "Cashmere Mafia," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Flight of the Conchords," "Dante's Cove," “Til Death," “Reaper,” the new CBS programs “Project Gary” and “Harper’s Island," and the ABC comedy “Roman’s Empire.” The current contract expires on June 30, 2008.

In other business, the AFTRA National Board unanimously rejected a request from the Screen Actors Guild to delay ratification of the new AFTRA contract until SAG concludes its negotiations with the AMPTP. During its meeting, the National Board learned that SAG officials had voted to allocate SAG resources to undermine AFTRA’s ratification efforts.

In a response to SAG leadership that was unanimously approved by the national board, AFTRA National President Reardon and National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth said in part:

“In our view, delaying this process would not be in the best interest of our members. Nor do we believe there is anything about AFTRA’s ratification process that would ‘distract’ either SAG or the industry from good faith negotiations, or in any way be ‘interfering‘ with the guild’s negotiations with the AMPTP. In any event, given our timeline, by the time the results of our ratification vote are announced, SAG will have been back at the table with the employers for more than five weeks. We believe this provides sufficient time to allow SAG and the AMPTP to focus on negotiations and hopefully reach a mutually satisfactory conclusion.
 
“We are reserving judgment about the accuracy of statements that SAG elected leaders and staff intend to undermine the merits of our members’ tentative agreement and disrupt our ratification process. Such unprecedented interference in the internal affairs of another union is the antithesis of good unionism. We expect that if SAG really is concerned about improving wages and working conditions for performers in the entertainment industry, its efforts and resources will be directed towards negotiating a good agreement for SAG members, not to attempting to undo our efforts to serve AFTRA members. We hope it will not be necessary to pursue legal remedies, but be aware that we would view any attempt by SAG or its leadership to undermine or interfere with our ratification process as a violation of both the law and the AFL-CIO Constitution.”

The ratification ballot is expected to be mailed to AFTRA members in good standing by mid-June, with votes due back three weeks later.

In other actions, the Board:

• Approved the appointment of members of the Commercials Standing Committee to serve as the steering committee to guide the negotiation process for the Recorded TV and Radio Commercials contract that expires October 29, 2008.
• Authorized a one-year extension of the National Public Radio agreement.
• Received a status report from the special committee established at the March 29 board meeting to review a proposal to define affected member voting on contracts.
• Received a report on the AFTRA contracts that guaranteed more than $2 million in severance payments to over 50 broadcasters whose jobs were slashed recently at 13 CBS network news and owned and operated TV and radio stations across the country.
• Received a report on a program at AFTRA Los Angeles Local that has successfully made $1 million in residual payouts to approximately 1,500 AFTRA members since December 2006 by searching out members whose checks had been held in trust because they “unable to locate.”

The meeting was dedicated to the memory of former AFTRA National President Mel Brandt, who had recently passed away.

About AFTRA
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 unions 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.


 


GS