LOS ANGELES and NEW YORK (May 14, 2011) – The National Board of Directors of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists – a national union more than 70,000 entertainment and news media professionals – met today by videoconference plenary in Los Angeles and New York. The Board overwhelmingly passed a resolution approving the appointment of the AFTRA New Union Committee to work with the SAG Merger Task Force in developing a plan to unite AFTRA and SAG into a single, new successor union, representing professional performers, broadcasters and sound recording artists.
The resolution (which appears below) also instructs the AFTRA New Union committee to begin meeting with SAG no later than June 30, 2011 to develop a merger agreement, a constitution and a national dues structure for presentation to the AFTRA National Board by the end of January 2012. The AFTRA New Union Committee, which will be chaired by AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon, consists of 13 committee members and 16 alternates (29 members total) who represent each major category of AFTRA’s diverse membership, as well as Local members outside of Los Angeles and New York.
The National Board also approved a Mission Statement (also below) for the new, successor Union. The Mission Statement was developed by the AFTRA and SAG members of the Presidents’ Forum for One Union and has been previously approved in draft form by the SAG National Board at its meeting on April 30.
“The Presidents’ Forum for One Union Listening Tour has been a thrilling and invaluable organizing experience, and I thank every actor, broadcaster and recording artist who participated and made their voice heard,” said President Reardon. “The Tour confirms what AFTRA has known since 1937: entertainment and news media professionals are stronger standing together and, overwhelmingly, AFTRA members want one new union. I look forward to moving this process forward into the next stage where we will now work with our sisters and brothers at Screen Actors Guild to build a new union for a new world.
“I applaud and thank SAG President Ken Howard and the leadership of SAG for their deep commitment to this grassroots process, and for working with AFTRA to ensure that this effort is not just successful, but that it reflects the vision and the specific and direct input of working members from all of our categories in large and small markets across the nation,” she added.
During her President’s Report, Reardon further observed: “In recent months, we have witnessed a spectacular and unprecedented attack on public workers in this country. Today, they are coming after school teachers, cops and nurses, but tomorrow they will come after us. From Madison to Miami and from Los Angeles to New York, AFTRA members stood up for their fellow union members. These attacks offer yet another compelling reason why we must unite our two unions so that we grow as one and we grow stronger to build real power for our members.”
The AFTRA New Union Committee Resolution – passed overwhelmingly – reads:
WHEREAS, in 1998 and again in 2003, a majority of members of AFTRA clearly demonstrated their desire to combine AFTRA and SAG into a single union of actors, journalists, recording artists, performers and other media artists employed across a wide spectrum of the media and entertainment industries; and
WHEREAS, over the last ten years, the employers with whom AFTRA and SAG have contracts have increasingly consolidated into large, multinational corporations that span all industries in which our members work; and
WHEREAS, in order to further explore the desirability of uniting our two organizations into a single successor union capable of exercising maximum influence across these industries, AFTRA’s and SAG’s National Boards authorized their Presidents to embark on a national “listening tour” to hear both unions’ members’ views about creating a combined union; and
WHEREAS, throughout the listening tour, members expressed their overwhelming support for the creation of a unified national union of actors, journalists, recording artists, performers and other media artists that would fight to secure and expand the strongest protections for all media artists; and
WHEREAS, following a historic series of Presidents’ Forum meetings among the leadership of both unions, the members of the Presidents’ Forum have recommended that we pursue uniting our organizations into a single, successor union committed to organizing all work in our jurisdictions, negotiating the best wages, working conditions and health and pension benefits, preserving and expanding our members’ work opportunities, vigorously enforcing our contracts and protecting our members against the unauthorized use of their work; and
WHEREAS, the National Board agrees that it is in the best interests of our members, as well as media artists throughout the country, to explore the merger of SAG and AFTRA into a strong, unified successor union.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the National Board hereby appoints a New Union Committee comprised of thirteen (13) members and sixteen (16) alternates to begin discussions with the SAG Merger Task Force concerning the creation of a successor union; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the New Union Committee, with appropriate assistance from staff and advisors, should hold an initial meeting with the SAG Merger Task Force no later than June 30, 2011 in order to develop a work plan, schedule meetings in August or September 2011, and December 2011 and January 2012, and appoint subcommittees that will meet and work in the intervals between Committee/Task Force meetings; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the AFTRA New Union Committee, guided by the principles expressed in the Presidents’ Forum Mission Statement, should report to the National Board at its July 2011 Board meeting concerning its work plan and meeting schedule; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the AFTRA New Union Committee shall work with the SAG Merger Task Force to prepare a merger agreement, constitution and dues policy in order to submit these documents to the Unions’ respective National Boards for approval in January 2012.
The Successor Union Mission Statement – passed unanimously – reads:
The Successor Union (TSU) brings together two great American labor unions: Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Both were formed in the turmoil of the 1930s, with histories of fighting for and securing the strongest protections for media artists. Our members united to form TSU in order to preserve those hard-won rights and to continue the struggle to extend and expand those protections into the 21st century and beyond.
We are actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news directors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voice over artists and other media professionals. Our work is seen and heard in theaters, on television and radio, sound recordings, the internet, games, mobile devices, home video: you see us and hear us on all media distribution platforms. We are the faces and the voices that entertain and inform America and the world.
TSU is committed to organizing all work done under our jurisdictions; negotiating the best wages, working conditions and health and pension benefits; preserving and expanding members’ work opportunities; vigorously enforcing our contracts; and protecting members against unauthorized use of their work.
A proud member of the AFL-CIO, TSU partners with our fellow unions in the U.S. and internationally to seek the strongest protections for media artists throughout the world. We work with governments at the international, federal, state and local levels to expand protections for American media professionals both at home and abroad.
It is a core value of TSU that our strength is in our diversity. We are committed to the broadest employment and involvement of our members, regardless of gender, race, age, religious beliefs, disability, nationality and sexual orientation or identification. TSU strives to educate and engage members so that they may be full participants in the workings of their union. We are proud to be a model of inclusion, democratic organization and governance.
In her report the Board, AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth praised the grassroots organizing efforts of members in the Boston and Peoria Locals to secure fair local broadcast contracts at Boston’s WHDH-TV, and WEEK-TV WHOI-TV in Peoria. “AFTRA members, staff and their community allies in Boston and Peoria have displayed excellent examples of what real organizing looks like,” said Hedgpeth. “They are fighting for their right to collectively bargain and fend off attacks from their employers, which threaten not just their ability to do their jobs well, but the quality news reporting that their local communities depend on and have a right to receive. We salute these members for their solidarity and leadership.”
NED Hedgpeth also reported to the Board on preparations for renegotiating two major AFTRA contracts later this year. The Union’s largest contract, the AFTRA Network Television Code “Front of the Book,” which covers all programming on television except scripted network primetime programs (those programs are covered by the AFTRA Exhibit A contract) will expire on Nov. 15, 2011. The AFTRA Sound Recordings Code, which is AFTRA’s second largest contract, will expire on Dec. 31, 2011. Wages and Working Conditions (W&W) meetings for these two contracts are currently underway in Locals all around the nation.
Hedgpeth said: “AFTRA members are uniquely poised coordinate their considerable experience across a wide range of industries among common employers to ensure that as their work evolves, it evolves under a union contract. Our success in these upcoming negotiations is especially critical in light of the fact that these agreements will carry forward into the new, successor union and must be strengthened to provide continued quality work opportunities to future generations of union members.”
In other action, the National Board authorized the AFTRA National Administrative Committee to approve the Network Code W&W Plenary Committee and the Sound Recordings Code W&W Plenary and Negotiating Committees.
Shelby Scott, Union Chair of the Trustees of the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds and AFTRA National Vice President, reported that both the AFTRA Retirement Fund and the Health Fund saw an increase in investments. The AFTRA Retirement Fund investments increased by 10% in the past five months (Dec. 2010 to April 2011) for a total increase of 14% in the last 12 months (April 30, 2010 through May 1, 2011). It continues to operate in the “green zone.” The AFTRA Health Fund investments rose by $7 million and it has more than a year’s assets in reserve. The AFTRA H&R Trustees will next meet for their regularly scheduled meeting in June.
AFTRA Kansas City actor Dean Vivian was elected by the board to serve as a Union representative on the AFTRA H&R Board of Trustees. Vivian, who was unanimously recommended by the AFTRA Health and Retirement Issues Committee, replaces longtime AFTRA H&R Trustee and founder and former President of the Cleveland Local, sportscaster and announcer John FitzGerald, who died on Dec. 24, 2011.
Board members also received reports from the Union’s Finance, Information Technology, Audio Books, Performers with Disabilities, Equal Employment Opportunities and Broadcast Steering (BSC) committees. The board unanimously approved a recommendation by the BSC to endorse the AFTRA EEO department’s creation of a new national campaign: “Combatting Age Discrimination in Broadcast.”
The National Board convened its meeting in the memory of more than 45 members who died recently, including New York recording artist Howard A. Roberts (father of NED Hedgpeth), Los Angeles actor Jane Russell, Tri-State sports announcer Tom Carnegie and Nashville recording Mel McDaniel.
The National Board will next meet at its face-to-face plenary on July 19-20 just ahead of the 2011 AFTRA National Convention in Seattle on July 21-23.