SAG-AFTRA Chief David White Says Union Almost Walked Out Of Contract Talks Over Nudity & Sexual Harassment Protections

David White SAG-AFTRA
David White SAG-AFTRA

SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White said today that the union came close to calling for a strike in order to secure greater protections for performers involved in nude scenes and simulated sex. The union reached a deal with management’s AMPTP in the early morning hours of June 11 – but just barely. “We almost had to walk in order to get this,” he said in a podcast released today. “It’s worth noting that several of these changes did not happen until the last days of negotiations.”

“Some of these seem like they’re such simple changes and along the lines of common sense,” he said of the bargaining process. “But it’s important for members to know that the way a studio looks at this is that every single change to production; everything that adds additional time or an additional layer of activity, goes through a series of Excel spread sheets. You literally can see people with their heads down at their computers, and they’re spreading the cost of that delay or that new action on every production around the thousands of productions that they may be responsible for, and they’re all thinking like that. So it makes every single change very difficult to push, and they will really push hard on any one thing you want to do. And we met this, with that particular provision, even though we were dealing with people who also had a stake and a desire to change the culture around sexual harassment and around nudity. Even when they meant it, their institutional interests fought it every step of the way.”

You can hear the full podcast here.

Ratification ballots for the new contract will counted tomorrow, and the union’s national leadership, which is urging a “yes vote,” said that the new contract includes “historic improvements to protections for principal and background performers working nude or performing in simulated sex scenes, including improvements to notice and consent requirements. Plus, new protections at auditions and interviews as well as a provision that explicitly addresses harassment prevention.”

Two-thirds of the union’s national board has voted to recommend ratification, but two-thirds of the LA Local’s board voted to oppose it. And yesterday, the Time’s Up Foundation issued a statement calling on the union’s members to reject it, saying that while “progress has been made,” the new pact doesn’t go far enough, and that “many of the important issues we’ve raised have not been sufficiently addressed.”

Time’s Up Urges SAG-AFTRA Members To Reject Film & TV Contract It Calls “Disappointing And Dangerous”; No Right To “Intrude”, Guild Responds

SAG-AFTRA responded sharply, telling Time’s Up to butt out of its internal affairs. “We appreciate the concern and advocacy of Time’s Up,” the guild said in a statement. “We are motivated by the same desire to protect our members and others in the entertainment industry. However, we believe that with this decision Time’s Up has made a serious mistake.”

The union’s leadership is also fighting back against what it says are “erroneous claims” that the nudity, simulated sex and sexual harassment protections contained in the new deal are inferior to those contained in the current contract adopted by ACTRA, the Canadian actors’ union. To dispel this claim, SAG-AFTRA has created a side-by-side chart that shows the differences and similarities between the two unions’ contracts in this area.

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