UPDATE: Unofficial SAG Negotiations Alert Sent Out

Recently, SAG’s negotiating committee approved a member bulletin containing a negotiations update and including a response card for member feedback. See the complete member bulletin here and my synopsis below:



Your SAG negotiators are working hard to conclude successful negotiations for a successor agreement to the TV/Theatrical Contract. This special bulletin explains in detail why Screen Actors Guild has serious reservations with the June 30 offer from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). We do not expect to get everything we have proposed, but the AMPTP offer does not sufficiently respond to our priorities. Screen Actors Guild is committed to bargaining the best deal possible. Our core mission is to improve the lives of actors and their families. We know that new media is here NOW, and our professional futures depend on achieving fair terms in this area right now. We must not and will not be swayed by misleading arguments and management’s attacks. Talks continue. Since June 30, we have had informal discussions with the employers, their AMPTP representatives and a core group of leaders from both organizations. You will no doubt read spin suggesting that there is dead silence between our sides, but that is inaccurate. We are working through alternative channels to push for a fair deal for actors as soon as possible. Substantive progress is more likely in this environment as negotiators can talk more productively, exchange ideas and seek a path leading to a conclusion. This type of informal communication is routine in labor talks and, in fact, occurred in other guilds’ negotiations this year. Many of the discussions SAG’s negotiators have had are confidential at the request of the other parties.

The negotiating team knows SAG members have a lot of questions, and here we answer several we hear frequently.

Why not just take the deal – other unions have?
This contract represents serious income for you, both now and in the future. It’s simply not wise for a union to endorse non-union work or to sell out residuals in new media, which represents the future of our profession. And, we cannot agree to rollbacks that gut our contract of provisions we have had for 75 years. The working life of an actor is not the same as a writer’s or director’s and our contract solution can’t always be the same.

Why do we insist on residuals in all new media now?
Because it is all but certain that giving up on residuals in new media will mean the beginning of the end of residuals in all media. We know this is a relatively new business model, but like everyone else, we know it is growing by leaps and bounds. We can’t let residuals slip away, because once they’re gone – they’re gone for good.

Why not allow some non-union work in new media?
Because it guts the meaning of unionism to encourage our signatory companies to produce non-union. These are companies that sign our contracts and agree to abide by our terms. Being a SAG signatory means something – it means the studio or network produces union. We can’t ever let that change. We owe it to our fellow actors around the country to make sure that work opportunities stay union. SAG members already fight a pitched battle against the encroachment of non-union production.

What’s so important about protecting the “force majeure” provision?
Force majeure provides a compensation mechanism for actors’ salaries when a production gets shut down indefinitely due to an “act of God.” That is a collectively bargained provision that actors shouldn’t have to bargain on their own.

Why shouldn’t actors just be flexible and endorse whatever products are slipped into their scripts?
Because product integration is really just unpaid commercial endorsement and could put an actor in conflict with his or her commercial work or personal convictions. An actor should be notified and have the right of consent and the ability to bargain for compensation.

Since 2005, Screen Actors Guild staff and committee members have been preparing for the re-negotiation of the TV/Theatrical Contract. That work has included thousands of hours of research, with an eye toward the most recent changes in media and technology. Feedback from members working under the contract has been key. Much of that member input was culled through the Wages and Working Conditions (W&W) process, which was conducted jointly with sister union AFTRA. Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA have a long history of bargaining together. This time AFTRA formally rescinded joint bargaining, just weeks after it formally renewed its commitment to joint bargaining at a meeting held with the AFL-CIO in March. A joint SAG-AFTRA committee unanimously approved the TV/Theatrical proposal package that same month.

The following is a timeline of key events relating to negotiations:
February 2008

Individual W&W committees across the country met to formulate proposals. Town hall-style W&W membership caucuses were held in numerous cities.
February 29
The W&W proposal process concluded.
March 25
The joint SAG/AFTRA W&W Plenary Committee reviewed all of the proposals from around the country and forged a unanimously adopted proposal package.
March 29
The Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA national boards met separately at the same hotel to consider the proposed package prior to a scheduled joint meeting that afternoon. The SAG board voted to approve. The AFTRA board voted to break off from SAG and bargain the joint contract alone. SAG officially asked AFTRA to return to Phase 1 joint bargaining on four occassions. AFTRA refused every time. AFTRA has six TV shows covered by this contract and about $40 million in earnings. Comparatively, SAG has more than 100 TV shows and all motion pictures produced under this agreement, representing more than $4 billion in SAG member earnings over the last three years. SAG did not attempt to raid the daytime program The Bold and The Beautiful, although AFTRA has repeatedly made this claim. Susan Flannery, a star of the show, issued a public statement confirming that AFTRA’s claim is false. To read Flannery’s letter online, go to http://www.sag.org/newsletters-11.
April 15
Screen Actors Guild began negotiations with the AMPTP. Other union observers, including AFTRA, the WGA, AFM and the Teamsters were invited to attend most SAG bargaining days.
May 6
The AMPTP suspended talks with us to begin negotiations with AFTRA. Just before AFTRA started bargaining, our negotiating committee provided a full briefing of the status of our negotiations to the AFTRA committee and distributed detailed status charts for SAG and AMPTP proposals.
May 7 to May 28
AFTRA and the AMPTP met. SAG observers were often told not to attend whole days of AFTRA’s talks. They were permitted in the room only a handful of days, and not at all during the last seven days.
May 28
AFTRA and the AMPTP reached a tentative agreement, six hours before our negotiations with the AMPTP resumed. SAG resumed talks at 10 a.m.
May 29
AFTRA briefed our negotiating committee on their tentative agreement.
June 9
SAG held a rally at SAG headquarters in support of its negotiators and launched the “Vote No” campaign, urging AFTRA members not to ratify the tentative agreement, which mirrors the AMPTP’s June 30 “final” offer to SAG.
June 30
The AMPTP extended its “final offer.” We have continued to discuss the outstanding issues dividing us with industry representatives since that date.
July 1
Screen Actors Guild members continued to work beyond the 12:01 a.m. contract expiration.
July 8
AFTRA members ratified the AMPTP offer with 62% of those who returned a ballot voting in favor, compared to the 93% vote of AFTRA members who returned a ballot to ratify the daytime TV Net Code contract. AFTRA’s broadcast non-actor members were encouraged to vote yes to help fund their P&H benefits.
July 10
Screen Actors Guild presented its counterproposal.
July 16
The AMPTP gave its response and formal bargaining recessed.
August 21
Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors voted unanimously to reject the AMPTP’s June 30 offer and did not agree to send it to the members.
Smaller group meetings and exchanges continued with the employers, their AMPTP representatives and a core group of leaders in both organizations.

Money is not the issue dividing us. In their proposed contract, our employers want to take away many of the protections this union has fought so hard for. Simultaneously, management fails to acknowledge that overdue increases are required in order for many actors to keep up with the cost of living and remain in the profession. For 75 years, the collective bargaining power of SAG has ensured the jurisdiction of union work and your right to protections like residuals. We back our promises with contract enforcement, taking action against employers who shirk their responsibilities. We can’t give up those protections now.

They Want Us To Endorse Non-Union Work In New Media
SAG is fighting hard to guarantee that you can work a good union job in the new media space (where SAG already has established jurisdiction) and that your residuals don’t get stripped from you. Under the AMPTP-proposed agreement, any made-for new media production that has a budget under $15,000 per minute can be made non-union. We know that, in reality, Internet productions may cost far less than that to make. To date we have more than 650 Internet productions signed to SAG agreements, and the average budget of those productions is about $2,000 per minute. This would enshrine and endorse non-union work WITHIN our contract and cannot be accepted.

“Retroactivity” Threat Is Typical
The AMPTP had stated that SAG must ratify the AMPTP’s June 30 proposal by August 15 for the deal to be retroactive, threatening not to agree to apply economic improvements in the new TV/Theatrical Contract when the deal is done, retroactively to July 1, 2008. This is a standard response by management in negotiations to try to force a bad deal upon labor. The risk that actors may not receive increases retroactively is more than offset by the long-term damage that would result from a premature deal that eliminates residuals for work done for new media and reused in new media, or from allowing signatory producers to produce non-union.

The Beginning Of The End Of Residuals
Protecting residuals is another concern of your SAG negotiators. Residuals are an actor’s right and an employer’s responsibility. It is money you should be able to count on. The recent offer by the AMPTP to SAG does NOT include residuals for programs made for new media and streamed again on ad-supported new media platforms. So a program originally made for ABC.com, for example, could be available for re-viewing on ABC.com, or any other ad-supported Internet outlet, as often as possible and forever with no residuals, no matter how much money is generated or how many times it is shown.* (*There is one residuals provision, but it’s an unrealistic scenario given the reality of today’s new media production budgets, and that’s if a program is made for and re-run on a pay platform like iTunes and the budget is more than $25,000 per minute.) Unless we stand strong, this could mean the beginning of the end for residuals in not just new media but ALL media.

Shouldn’t You Have the Choice Whether or Not to Do a Commercial Within a Scripted TV Show or Movie?
Screen Actors Guild isn’t opposed to product integration, which helps pay production costs, but actors should have the right to agree to or decline a sales pitch within scripted programs, and they should get paid additional money when they do agree. As commercial actors know, product endorsement is an art in itself. Speaking lines that promote a product has added value that should be rewarded. Furthermore, repeatedly promoting products within shows and movies could easily diminish your value to advertisers in making actual paid commercials. And of course, you would never want to be in a situation that you can’t say no to products and companies you would otherwise never endorse. Producers need to find additional revenue sources, but actors need a reasonable mechanism to be fairly compensated. We also need a joint labor/management study to measure the ongoing impact of product integration.

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime for Gas?
A dime. Ten cents more. That’s not much to a multimillion dollar entertainment conglomerate, but it means a lot to us. Because of increases in the cost of living, the IRS recently set the standard for mileage at 58.5 cents per mile. In contrast, all we’re asking of our employers is an increase from 30 cents to 40 cents per mile for actors traveling for work. The mileage rate hasn’t been raised since 1980, and with gas prices fluctuating around $4 a gallon, some increase is only fair.

‘Force Majeure’ Ensures Pay – Your Employers Want to Take Away that Collective Bargaining Right
“Force majeure” is a provision that has been in our TV/Theatrical agreements since 1937. It says that if a production is interrupted for reasons outside of the control of the producers or the actors, including “acts of God” or strikes, there are certain protections that the producers get, and certain protections the actors get. It means a producer can hold you if the production is interrupted, as long as you get paid. One of the things that is included in that force majeure protection is a strike by another union, such as the WGA. While production was shut down during the WGA strike, force majeure provisions kicked in, but management has refused to pay their force majeure obligations in most cases. Screen Actors Guild has filed claims for casts of 87 shows. We didn’t bring these arbitration claims to the bargaining table, but management made force majeure part of the negotiations. They want us to waive these claims, and they want us to give up an important contract provision. They would rather bargain that right with individual actors at the time of hire. You can imagine how successful you would be in negotiating your own contract for force majeure protection. This “insurance” would all but disappear.

Background Actors, Stunt Coordinators Deserve Better
Principal performers aren’t the only ones your National Negotiating Committee is fighting for. Management’s proposal only increased the number of background actors by one in Western zones. Also unfairly, television stunt coordinators still don’t get residuals under this proposal unless they appear on camera. Stunt coordinators on movies do; why not in television?

Sunset Clause
The so-called “sunset clause” is no guarantee that we will ever get back any of our core principles if we give up on them now. Even with a sunset clause, it will be nearly impossible to bargain these issues back up to a fair level in three years. Once management digs in, it will be harder than ever to turn them around. “The risk that actors may not receive increases retroactively is more than offset by the long-term damage that would result from a premature deal that eliminates residuals for work done for new media and reused in new media, or from allowing signatory producers to produce non-union.”

As of August 19, Screen Actors Guild had completed and returned 663 Guaranteed Completion Contracts, confirming with these non-AMPTP signatory producers that their projects will be uninterrupted by any possible work stoppages. Fifty of the projects so far are budgeted between $14 million and $60 million. These agreements simply state that the producer will abide by the terms of any interim agreement issued by Screen Actors Guild, as well as the successor agreement that results from negotiations with the AMPTP. Work on these films will continue even in the event of a lockout or a strike.

The National Board Of Directors Of Screen Actors Guild Has Voted On The Following Resolutions:

“It is a core principle of Screen Actors Guild that no non-union work shall be authorized to be done under any Screen Actors Guild agreement and that all work under a Screen Actors Guild contract, regardless of budget level, shall receive fair compensation when reused.” Approved unanimously, July 26, 2008
“It was moved and seconded that the National Board accept the AMPTP’s June 30, 2008, ‘final offer’ and directs that the offer be sent to the membership for ratification.” Defeated unanimously, August 21, 2008
“It was moved and seconded to support the negotiating team to get the very best contract possible for our membership.”
Approved unanimously, August 21, 2008



After 44 days of formal negotiations with the full SAG/AMPTP negotiating committees, we have tentatively agreed to a number of significant proposals. While some of the proposals are acceptable and will have a positive impact on our contract, others were very difficult for your negotiators to tentatively approve. We have tentative agreement on many more issues with which we have disagreement, especially in new media. As is true in any negotiation, progress is achieved through a give-and-take process by which parties come to mutual agreement. Sometimes that’s a very painful process.

Areas in which we have tentative agreement include:
SAG has tentatively agreed to an increase in minimums of 3.5% in year one, 3% in year two and 3.5% in year three of the contract.

SAG has tentatively agreed to a .5% increase in producer P&H contributions in the second year of the contract. This brings the Producer contribution to 15%.

SAG has tentatively agreed to an increase to $3,000 in the “3-Day Overtime Money Break for TV” effective July 1, 2009.

Where the Consumer Pays
On new media platforms where the consumer pays to view TV programs or feature films for a limited amount of time or a fixed
number of exhibitions, 3.6% of the distributors gross receipts (DGR) would be divided among the cast. Where the consumer pays to download to own television programs or feature films (electronic sell through), the casts would share in 5.4% of 20% of the DGR up to the first 50,000 units downloaded for features and up to the first 100,000 units downloaded for television programs.
After reaching the respective unit limits, the formulas would be increased to 9.75% of 20% of DGR for features and 10.5% of 20% of DGR for television programs. These increases in the DVD formula would only apply to downloads, not to DVDs purchased in stores. That formula remains the same.

Where the Consumer Does Not Pay
On new media platforms where the consumer does not pay and television programs are “streamed,” we have a tentative agreement. If a new program for this upcoming season were to be streamed on the Internet, it would have 24 free streaming days to make those episodes available for viewing on the website and those 24 days could begin streaming prior to or after the air date of that episode. Th en, aft er the 24 days of streaming, they would have the right to exhibit the episode for two 26-week periods if they pay 3% of the applicable minimum for each 26-week period. In the case of a day performer who works one day, that comes to approximately $22 for each 26-week period or $44 for the year. After the year following the streaming window, the performers on the episode would be entitled to share 6% of DGR. Th e 3% payment for the two 26-week periods would increase to 3.5% in 2010. For theatrical motion pictures on these platforms, the cast will share in 3.6% of DGR from the initial streaming of the picture.

SAG has tentatively agreed to a proposal which preserves library clip permissions. Prospective clips permission will be subject to individual negotiations, but outstanding issues include protections for actors (such as not allowing clip permission to be a condition of employment).

Please read the information in the attached newsletter carefully. This newsletter explains why we haven’t reached agreement with the AMPTP on the new TV/Theatrical contract. Now we need to hear from you. Please let us know how you feel by indicating which of the following options you prefer (check ONLY ONE box below):

— Continue negotiating with the AMPTP to secure a fair TV/Theatrical contract for actors with better terms than the AMPTP’s June 30th “final offer.”
— Accept the AMPTP’s June 30th “final offer” without modification.

This is not a binding ratification vote, but the results of this poll will be valuable information for the negotiating committee and National Board to use to evaluate how members feel about the negotiations.

Please choose one option and send in your response now! To ensure it will be counted, postcards must be received at the P.O. Box only no later than 12:00 p.m. (PDT) on Monday, September 15. This postcard includes a unique barcode to ensure that only active members in good standing participate in this poll. The confidentiality of your response will be maintained.