AFTRA National Board of Directors Approves Conditions that would
Permit Joint Bargaining with SAG on Commercials Contracts
LOS ANGELES AND NEW YORK (October 5, 2008)—Meeting by videoconference between New York and Los Angeles, the National Board of Directors 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—approved a proposed agreement outlining conditions to permit joint bargaining with SAG on the Commercials Contracts under the terms of the Phase One agreement. The specifics of the proposed agreement, which was facilitated by representatives of the AFL-CIO, will remain confidential until acted upon by the SAG National Board in a few weeks.
In her address to the AFTRA National Board, President Roberta Reardon observed, “Our entire world of work is in evolution as digital technology becomes the norm in production. This has an ever-widening impact on all AFTRA workers from sound recordings artists who led the way in the digital revolution, to radio and TV broadcasters who are watching the face of the industry morph on a daily basis, to freelance actors who are watching new platforms develop in webisodes and the spectrum of new media. Each of the five national contracts negotiated this year included new language dealing with the digitization of our industry. These are not the final terms for these new areas of work but they are a secure place from which to grow. And grow we shall.”
The Board of Directors also received a confidential informational report on the findings of the Booz Allen Hamilton Commercials Study that was jointly commissioned and funded by AFTRA, SAG, and the advertising industry’s ANA/AAAA Joint Policy Committee on Broadcast Talent Union Relations (JPC). The report was informational only and no action was taken by the Board. AFTRA and SAG are jointly conducting educational meetings for union members in various cities during October to outline the study’s findings in preparation for upcoming Wages and Working Conditions meetings. AFTRA’s Television and Radio Commercials Contracts are set to expire on March 31, 2009.
AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth reported that AFTRA has collected over $17.3 million in claims for AFTRA members during the fiscal year ending April 30, 2008, up from $14 million in fiscal year 2007. “AFTRA members are faced with the increasing challenges of a technologically changing world and an economy in crisis,” said AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth. “Given this environment, AFTRA members must develop new strategies to move forward with one voice and collectively exercise the necessary leverage to achieve their legitimate bargaining goals.”
Board members unanimously endorsed the I.AM.PWD Tri-Union initiative, which will officially kick off its campaign at simultaneous press conferences scheduled for Monday, October 6, in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. The I.AM.PWD campaign is a global civil rights campaign seeking equal employment opportunities for artists and professionals with disabilities throughout the entertainment and news media. Founded in 2008 by the AFTRA, AEA, and SAG, the Tri-Union Performers with Disabilities Committee I.AM.PWD is dedicated to ending the discrimination and exclusion of performers and broadcasters with disabilities. I.AM.PWD is uniting labor, industry, community and governmental allies in the fight to combat continuing discrimination against people with disabilities. President Reardon will announce the campaign from the First Amendment Room at the National Press Club where AFTRA First National Vice President and Peabody Award-winning journalist Bob Edwards will host.
The National Board delegated authority to its Administrative Committee to approve an extension to the AFTRA Interactive Media Agreement—first pioneered by AFTRA in the early 1990s—if satisfactory terms for an extension can be agreed upon by AFTRA and videogame employers. The current AFTRA Interactive Media Agreement is set to expire on December 31, 2008. Board members also approved extensions of the AFTRA Electronic Media Agreement and the AFTRA Infomercial, Video New Release, and Local Station Promo Agreements.
Past AFTRA National President Shelby Scott, who currently serves as Union Chair of the AFTRA Health & Retirement Trustees, reported that the AFTRA Health Pension Fund investments are stable despite recent fluctuations in the market due to the volatile economic climate in the US. “People are anxious about the economy, concerned about their jobs, and wondering if their retirement income will provide enough to live on”, said Scott. “The AFTRA Pension plan is a defined benefit plan—meaning your promised benefits which have been earned to date are safe and will be paid to you. The AFTRA Pension plan was 97% funded at the last valuation. This means that even if no more contributions are made, and even with the downturn in the market, the Plan can and will make good on all benefits promised and accrued to date.”
Janette Gautier, President of the AFTRA/Heller Memorial Foundation, reported that the Heller Foundation awarded $25,000 in scholarships to 13 AFTRA members or their dependents in August 2008. "Our recipients this year are all wonderful and promising students,” said Gautier. “It’s a thrill to be able to assist AFTRA members and their children with their college expenses—especially in today’s economy. I urge all AFTRA members to please give generously to the Heller Memorial Foundation so that we may continue helping members and their families achieve their dreams." The AFTRA/Heller Memorial Foundation was established to honor AFTRA founder, George Heller, provides scholarships to AFTRA members and their dependents for academic study in any field including broadcast, journalism, and labor relations, or for professional training in the arts in memory of Heller and other past union leaders.
Saturday’s National Board meeting was held in the memory of longtime AFTRA members: New York broadcaster Ike Pappas, actor Paul Newman, voiceover legend Don LaFontaine, and AFTRA Washington/Baltimore legal counsel and 2005 AFTRA Heller Gold Card winner, Tom Powers, all of whom passed away since the Board last met on June 6, 2008.
The AFTRA National Board will next meet in February 2009.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, are the people who entertain and inform America. More than 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists are moving forward together through AFTRA to protect and improve our jobs, lives, and communities. AFTRA members embrace change in society—from new culture to new technology—and incorporate change in our work and craft. In 32 Locals across the country, AFTRA members work as actors, journalists, dancers, singers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audio books, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet, and other digital media. Visit AFTRA at www.aftra.com.