AFTRA Wants “Presidents' Forum” To Discuss Merger With SAG

LOS ANGELES (July 21, 2010) – The Administrative Committee of the National Board of Directors of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA, AFL-CIO) – a national union of more than 70,000 professional performers, recording artists and broadcast journalists – met today for its regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

At today’s meeting, the AFTRA Administrative Committee approved the formal appointment of AFTRA’s members to the AFTRA Exhibit A/SAG TV-Theatrical Joint Wages and Working Conditions National Plenary Committee and Negotiating Committee. AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon will serve as AFTRA’s National Chair for both the Joint W&W Plenary and Negotiating committees. The other members of the committees remain confidential, pursuant to AFTRA policy.

President Reardon also reported to the Administrative Committee that she has proposed to Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard the creation of a “Presidents’ Forum” to facilitate focused and informal discussions between leaders of the two unions to establish a common vision for a single, new national union representing professional performers, recording artists and broadcast journalists working in the entertainment and news media industries.

President Reardon said, “I first became involved in union service at AFTRA because I believe in one new union for all of our members. That new union must address and anticipate the dramatic and accelerating changes in our industries and the needs and concerns of members in all jurisdictions, in all parts of the country. This important discussion must be both careful and thorough and must be inclusive and unburdened by bureaucratic processes. For ourselves and for future generations, it is imperative: we cannot fail.”

The Presidents’ Forum is an opportunity for each union’s President to invite key leaders from within each union to participate in informal, but focused, discussions, with a view to creating a common vision for a new union. The Forum would meet on an as-needed basis as requested by the union Presidents, with different AFTRA leaders participating, depending upon the agenda and topics at each discussion to permit as inclusive and diverse input as possible. It is expected such informal discussions would continue through the end of 2011, given upcoming contract negotiations for the AFTRA and SAG Non-Broadcast/Industrial/Educational Contracts, which expire on April 30, 2011, and the months-long wages and working conditions meetings and negotiations planned for AFTRA’s Network Television Code (“Front of the Book”) which expires on Nov. 15, 2011.

The Administrative Committee also unanimously approved two new experimental agreements covering narrators who record audiobooks produced by Highbridge Audio and John Marshall Media. Each agreement includes terms for minimum compensation as well as employer contributions to the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds. The agreements cover audiobooks intended for distribution through the National Library Service and for commercial release through major distributors such as, MacMillan, Random House, Blackstone, Harper and BBC, among others. The Highbridge Audio Agreement is effective July 22, 2010, through July 21, 2011, and the John Marshall Media Agreement is retroactive to July 1, 2010, and is effective through Dec. 31, 2011.

The Administrative Committee received the formal announcement that the AFTRA Boston Local has established a scholarship in memory of long-time Boston broadcast journalist and AFTRA National Board Member John Henning, who passed away on July 7, 2010. The scholarship in Henning’s memory would be administered through the George Heller Memorial Scholarship Fund of the AFTRA Foundation.

The Administrative Committee acknowledged the passing of both Mr. Henning and long-time union activist, actor Larry Keith, who passed away on July 17.

The Administrative Committee is next scheduled to meet on Aug. 18, and the full AFTRA National Board is scheduled to meet on Sept. 11, followed by a joint meeting of the AFTRA and SAG Joint National Board in preparation for the commencement of the AFTRA Exhibit A/SAG TV-Theatrical negotiations which are scheduled to begin on Sept. 27, 2010.

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