Tag Archives: AFTRA

AFTRA accepts deal

Despite the Screen Actors Guild’s avid campaign, members of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have ratified the union’s primetime deal by 62.4% — a tally strong enough to send a rebuke to SAG, but not so strong that Hollywood’s immediate future is clear-cut.

The three-year agreement received support well below the usual level in such tallies, following a month of unprecedented battling between the thesp unions.

“SAG ran a well-funded and ferocious disinformation campaign that created a lot of confusion,” said AFTRA president Roberta Reardon said at a news conference Tuesday evening after the results were announced. “We are the ones who won the moral victory.”

The ratification was not a surprise, due to the faltering economy and the lingering impact of the 100-day WGA strike. Terms in the AFTRA pact mirror those in the contracts signed by the WGA and DGA, along with the majors’ final offer to SAG.

The Screen Actors Guild was hoping for a defeat of the AFTRA pact, which would have given the guild more leverage as it resumes talks Thursday on its own feature-primetime deal.

The AFTRA victory signals that there’s not enough support among SAG’s 120,000 members to vote for a strike authorization, which would require 75% approval. Still to be decided is whether the 37.6% support for SAG in the AFTRA vote shows that the guild has enough clout to persuade the Alliance of Motion Picture & TV Producers to include a sweetener or two to close the deal with SAG.

SAG and the producers meet again on Thursday and that meeting will provide the key clue of how long talks can be expected to last. TV and film productions want to know as soon as possible how quickly they can resume a normal work schedule.

The AMPTP issued a statement Tuesday telling SAG it should take AFTRA’s deal. “We appreciate today’s vote of confidence by actors in the agreement we reached with AFTRA, and hope that it demonstrates to SAG’s Hollywood leadership that there is support for the new economic relationships we have built with writers, directors and actors — and not much support for a strike, whether de facto or real,” it said.

Ballots went out to all 70,000 AFTRA members. AFTRA did not disclose how many thesps voted.

SAG’s effort was enough to lower the approval rate below the usual 90% given to guild contract votes. But producers and AFTRA expected a result around the 60%-70% level.

Screen Actors Guild had lobbied hard for defeat of this pact and, in a statement Tuesday evening, complained about AFTRA but significantly stopped short of declaring this a triumph for their side.

However, SAG president Alan Rosenberg attempted to portray the 37.6% “no” vote as a moral victory after SAG spent a month urging its 44,000 members who also belong to AFTRA to turn down the deal so that SAG could negotiate better terms. “We will continue to address the issues of importance to actors that AFTRA left on the table and we remain committed to achieving a fair contract for SAG actors,” he added.

Rosenberg said AFTRA had taken advantage of non-actors, such as news people, sportscasters and DJs. “In its materials, AFTRA focused that appeal on the importance of actor members’ increased contributions to help fund its broadcast members’ pension and health benefits,” he added.

Reardon blasted Rosenberg’s contention, asserting that 74% of AFTRA members are actors and more than 90% are entertainers such as singers, dancers, comedians and musicians.

“Today’s vote reflects the ability of AFTRA members to recognize a solid contract when they see it,” Reardon said. “Despite an unprecedented disinformation campaign aimed at interfering with our ratification process, a majority of members ultimately focused on what mattered — the obvious merits of a labor agreement that contains substantial gains for every category of performer in both traditional and new media.”

The flap created a battle between the two actors unions, with many high-profile members choosing sides. Alec Baldwin, Sally Field, Tom Hanks and Susan Sarandon backed the AFTRA deal while Viggo Mortensen, Jack Nicholson, Nick Nolte and Martin Sheen endorsed SAG’s anti-AFTRA stance.

Reardon belittled SAG for using member dues to attack another union and said that the Membership First faction that controls SAG’s national board should be replaced at upcoming elections.

AFTRA ditched its joint bargaining partnership with SAG in March following a heated jurisdictional dispute over “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

“Clearly, this was not a typical ratification process, and it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise,” Reardon said. “To those of us for whom labor solidarity is more than just a slogan, the idea that politically-motivated leaders of one union would use their members’ dues to attack another union is unconscionable. Working people do not benefit when their union is under attack.”

The results of the AFTRA vote came nine days after the AMPTP broke off negotiations by delivering the final offer on June 30, a few hours before SAG’s feature-primetime contract expired. Actors have been working since on some TV programs under terms of the expired deal; SAG’s also granted waivers to more than 355 indie features.

SAG had contended that actors deserve sweeter terms in areas such as new media, DVD residuals and salary minimums. AFTRA argued that approval will put the industry back to work and that the deal includes gains in salaries and new media without rollbacks or concessions.

Reardon said she’d be surprised if the SAG deal wasn’t resolved by September but refused to comment further, noting that she hasn’t been in the room with SAG and the AMPTP. “I have a hard enough time reading the tea leaves in AFTRA,” she added.

SAG now faces the unsavory prospect of AFTRA signing up new shows shot on digital — an area of shared jurisdiction — with the new contract.

Reardon also indicated AFTRA is planning another run at a merger with SAG, though details haven’t been hammered out, by seeking to organize a summit meeting in coming weeks. “For the sake of our members, organized labor must be united, especially in a world of ever-increasing corporate consolidation,” she said.

Rosenberg has indicated he doesn’t necessarily oppose a merger, but the notion hasn’t been particularly popular in recent years among the Membership First faction in Hollywood — mostly due to suspicions that the terms would favor AFTRA.

A 2003 merger vote received support from three-quarters of AFTRA members but voting among SAG members fell 2% short of the required 60%. Pro-merger forces, led by then-SAG president Melissa Gilbert and topper Robert Pisano, were at the forefront of that campaign and asserted that combining SAG and AFTRA would lead to greater bargaining clout and operating efficiencies, along with resolving jurisdictional disputes.

The merger backers received extensive help from the AFL-CIO, which strongly favors combining unions that have similar jurisdictions. But opponents were able to persuade voters that SAG would be a shell under the new structure; that the org would be less responsive to the unique needs of actors; and that plans to subsequently merge the SAG and AFTRA health plans would be damaging to SAG participants.

Reardon also plans to offer SAG an olive branch by reviewing the possibility of renewing joint bargaining for the upcoming commercials contract, which expires in October. AFTRA leaders angrily ditched the Phase I bargaining pact with SAG in March over accusations that SAG was attempting to poach “The Bold and the Beautiful” from AFTRA.

Additionally, Reardon has worked up an ambitious proposal for all the town’s major unions — the DGA, WGA, IATSE. SAG and AFTRA — to come together together prior to the next round of negotiations to maximize their leverage. The WGA would be first up with a deal that expires in May 2011.

SAG placed a full-page ad in the Ketchum-based Idaho Mountain Express today from the guild’s national negotiating committee to the entertainment industry leaders attending the Allen & Co. Sun Valley Media Conference.

“This media conference is the place where significant deals get made,” Rosenberg said. “We wanted to remind the entertainment media leaders in attendance that there is another important deal to be made. Actors are the creative heart of the entertainment business, and our Screen Actors Guild members want to partner with our industry to invest in and share the rewards of our mutual digital future. Let’s keep talking and let’s make a fair deal.”

Movie stars clash in Hollywood union brawl

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Movie stars accustomed to polite rivalry for coveted film roles and Oscar glory are taking sides in an increasingly bitter labor dispute between Hollywood’s two actors unions.

The larger and more militant Screen Actors Guild this week enlisted such high-profile members as Jack Nicholson, Ben Stiller and Nick Nolte in its campaign to scuttle a contract negotiated by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Other A-list performers, including Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin and Sally Field, who won an Oscar for her role as a sweatshop union organizer in “Norma Rae,” sided last week with AFTRA in publicly urging that union’s 70,000 members to ratify the labor pact.

The dispute is ratcheting up tensions in Hollywood over the possibility of actors walking off the job this summer, just as the film and TV industry is still recovering from a 14-week writers strike that ended in February.

SAG leaders say AFTRA’s tentative labor deal, covering work on prime-time television, is fatally flawed and undercuts SAG’s position in its own contract talks with the studios on a broader TV and motion pictures contract.

Both contracts expire on June 30, though SAG leaders say they are prepared to negotiate past that deadline if necessary to get a deal.

Meanwhile, they are going all out to persuade some 40,000 of SAG’s 140,000 members who belong to both unions to vote “no” on the proposed AFTRA settlement, and have suggested the two unions could reunite afterward to bargain jointly.


The two had bargained together for nearly three decades, but AFTRA decided to go its own way earlier this year after long-simmering tensions with SAG reached a boiling point.

AFTRA leaders maintain they have negotiated the best deal possible, one they say improves on contracts obtained earlier this year by Hollywood directors and striking screenwriters, and they vow not to go back to the bargaining table with SAG under any circumstances.

The studios, and some union members, have accused SAG leaders of dragging their feet in talks while campaigning to defeat the AFTRA deal, which requires a simple majority of ballots returned by July 8 to win ratification.

An AFTRA spokeswoman said union leaders are “very confident about the merits of the deal.”

But they have cast the consequences of a defeat in the most dire terms, saying rejection would likely lead to a strike as SAG seeks to press demands that are otherwise beyond reach.

SAG has argued just the opposite.

“The SAG national negotiating committee knows that a ‘no’ vote makes a strike less likely because it shows that all actors want a better deal,” SAG said in a full-page ad printed on Wednesday in the industry’s two leading trade publications, Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

SAG plans to run similar ads on Thursday, along with the names of 67 members urging a “no vote.”

The vote-no campaign also has included recorded telephone messages to dual union members from Ed Asner and Sandra Oh, a mass mailing and video messages posted on SAG’s Web site from Martin Sheen, Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen.

AFTRA, in turn, has collected more than 600 signatures on a petition urging ratification of the deal.

Source: Reuters

AFTRA, producers head back to table

After a second weekend break, AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers head back to the bargaining table Monday to continue formal talks on a new primetime TV contract that expires June 30.

Talks between AFTRA and the AMPTP began May 7 following the suspension of negotiations with sister guild SAG. The two performers unions are negotiating the primetime TV contract separately for the first time in 27 years after a fallout on the eve of formal talks.

Not much has been released about the negotiations between AFTRA and the producers because of a news blackout. However, in an e-mail message to members last week, AFTRA president Roberta Reardon indicated that the two sides were making progress.

In the meantime, Los Angeles SAG members will meet Monday night to discuss the guild’s recent contract talks and the state of the negotiation process. Talks between SAG and the AMPTP began April 15 and broke down May 6 with no new deal. The AMPTP has offered to meet with SAG on May 28, indicating that it expects to finish negotiations with AFTRA in the next week and a half.

In a video message to members posted last week on the union’s Web site, SAG national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen said that the AMPTP suspended the negotiations “in spite of the progress we were making and moves we made in their direction.”

Among the issues Allen said the two sides “spent quite a bit of time” discussing was product placement and integration in film and TV productions and “dealing with the circumstances that actors find themselves in when they’re making scripted content but they’re handed a product to extol or endorse.

“We’ve proposed language that says they should have the right to refuse to do that if they’re not comfortable essentially making a commercial in the middle of scripted content,” he added.

Allen said the union understands product placement is necessary to finance the production, but the actor should have the right to refuse to participate if they have an outside contract that might conflict with the product placement or simply do not want to do it.

He did not, however, indicate whether the two sides came to any sort of agreement on the issue.

Allen also indicated that there were “some boulders in the road,” including the AMPTP’s proposals to create an online clip library in which they want actors to give blanket consent for the use of legally downloaded content. While studios are allowed to use the clips for promotion, any further use requires approval from the actor, pursuant to the union’s contract.

Allen said the AMPTP wants to get rid of that requirement and replace it with a completely unfettered agreement.

“We think that’s a problem,” he said.

As for the May 28 date offered by the AMPTP, SAG has accepted, but Allen said it’s “wasting time” to have a date so far ahead and they should be talking tomorrow.”

“We’re prepared to go back to the table and get this deal done as soon as possible,” he said, adding, “We need their cooperation. We can’t do this by ourselves.”

SAG’s contract also expires June 30.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

AFTRA, studios continue negotiations

AFTRA and the majors have kept their primetime contract negotiations under the radar while the Screen Actors Guild still waits in the wings.

The American Federation of Television & Radio Artists is expected to reach a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers as early as the end of this week.

In the meantime, SAG still hasn’t taken the AMPTP up on its invite to resume its negotiations on May 28. The town remains on yellow alert over a possible SAG strike, which could take place once the guild’s feature-primetime contract expires on June 30.

Talks between the AMPTP and SAG recessed last week over the guild’s objections, with the majors saying that gaps still existed on DVD residuals and new-media compensation.

Since then, SAG’s leaders have been stressing the importance of members getting paid for video clips on the Internet — an indication that the issue may be front and center when SAG and the AMPTP resume talks. Members have expressed strong support for that position, according to the discussion at SAG’s Hollywood board meeting Monday.

SAG’s insisting that actors must give consent for their film and TV work to be displayed online, while the congloms want to distribute such clips without seeking permission and pay a flat fee. The issue of consent on clips was not addressed in the DGA and WGA contracts, with the guild asserting that the issue is unique to actors. Studios and broadcast networks can use clips for promotional purposes but are required to negotiate with the performers when the clips are used for entertainment. They’re seeking to develop a market for clips to compete with pirated footage on the Web but assert that it’s too cumbersome to seek individual approval.

Source: Variety

AFTRA, studios keeping quiet

The first full day of talks between AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers wrapped up Thursday with no reports from either side due to a press blackout.

The performers’ union and the producers kicked off three hours of formal talks on the primetime/TV contract at the AMPTP’s headquarters in Sherman Oaks.

The negotiations began in the wake of a failed last-ditch effort by SAG, which asked AFTRA to postpone for a third time its scheduled talks with the AMPTP. AFTRA rejected SAG’s Doug Allen’s presentation, proposing that both sides join together in the bargaining process.

Tensions between the unions have been growing for more than year, culminating with what AFTRA claims was an attempted raid on “The Bold and the Beautiful” by SAG earlier this year. That event prompted the performers union to suspend its 27-year joint bargaining agreement with SAG on the primetime/TV contract and go it alone.

With 44,000 members carrying both SAG and AFTRA cards, AFTRA president Roberta Reardon sent a message to members, pushing for solidarity within the union as they start the talks.

“The stakes are high and passions can run even higher,” Reardon wrote. “At such a time, AFTRA’s historic ability to remain firm, clear-sighted and united is more important than ever.”

Thursday’s talks involved mostly introductions and opening remarks by both sides.

The union and producers will return to the bargaining table Friday morning, but is taking the Mother’s Day weekend off and resuming negotiations on Monday.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

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