Jonathan Handel reports on the SAG-AFTRA panel at the recent “Produced By” conference. It’s a window into the current thinking of the leadership.
We are saddened to learn that regular SAGWatch and SAG-AFTRAWatch contributor Kathy Joosten passed away earlier today.
Known most recently for her role as Karen McCluskey on “Desperate Housewives,” for which she received two Emmy awards, Ms. Joosten’s career included roles on “Dharma and Greg,” “My Name is Earl,” “Ally McBeal” among many others, and she was well-known for her role as Mrs. Landingham, the president of the United States’ secretary, on “The West Wing.”
In addition to being a talented actor, she was a forceful and articulate, yet always gracious, commenter here, and will be greatly missed.
The sticky issue of initiation fees remains as volatile as ever.
We earlier noted the defeat of a motion to increase initiation fees outside of New York and Los Angeles at the May 19-20 board meeting. Now, almost two weeks after that board meeting, The Hollywood Reporter states that a second motion — unannounced in the press release following the board meeting — passed to reduce the initiation fee for broadcasters in Los Angeles and New York from $3,000 to $1,708, on an “interim” basis.
Prior to merger, the major-market initiation fee for SAG was $2,277, and the initiation fee for AFTRA was $1,600, meaning that dual cardholders would pay a total of $3,877 to join both unions. The merger agreement set a basic initiation fee of $3,000, which was less than the combined total but a significant jump from the AFTRA-only figure.
The new “interim” rate is $108 higher than the previous AFTRA fee.
This broadcaster reduction applies only to “single unit” employees in New York and Los Angeles — i.e., those who are employed full-time by a single company. The SAG-AFTRA initiation fees outside of New York and Los Angeles remain lower, as they had been prior to merger.
When we publicized the earlier motion there was a chorus of criticism about violating the sanctity of the boardroom. However, as we noted here, there is a need for openness and transparency in SAG-AFTRA activities. The fact that this interim initiation fee reduction was not even mentioned in any public announcement by SAG-AFTRA makes us wonder what else is being concealed from members inappropriately under a cloak of secrecy. We understand the need for confidentiality in matters involving personnel, member discipline, negotiating strategy, and the like. However, none of those considerations appear to be applicable to initiation fees.
Here’s the official announcement of the first major deal following merger:
SAG-AFTRA Reaches Historic Deal with Record Labels
Landmark Deal is the First Industrywide Agreement Covering Music Video Performers
LOS ANGELES (June 1, 2012) — SAG-AFTRA today announced that it had reached tentative agreement with the major record labels — Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, EMI Music and The Walt Disney Co. — on a first-ever industrywide contract to cover dancers and other performers on music videos.
The three-year agreement was reached in the early morning hours of June 1, after the current round of talks between the union and label representatives commenced on May 30 in Los Angeles.
“Today we reached a historic, tentative agreement with the first industrywide contract for music video performers,” SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White said. “Our negotiations were productive, resulting in solid gains for SAG-AFTRA members. We also laid the groundwork for a cooperative partnership with the industry that will benefit members throughout the term of the agreement.”
“The industry really stepped up and worked with us to give performers a solid contract for music videos,” said SAG-AFTRA Assistant National Executive Director of Sound Recordings Randall Himes. “The changing nature of the music video industry made these negotiations more important than ever. Our agreement with the labels gives performers the working conditions they deserve, while also recognizing realities of the industry. I also want to recognize our members for leading the way. They were committed and mobilized to get this agreement and they have my total respect and admiration for their support and dedication.”
“We are grateful for the strong partnership that we continue to have with SAG-AFTRA,” stated Universal Music Group Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Lucian Grainge. “This agreement not only reflects that relationship, but is testament to the vision that we share with David and Randy in working together to meet the many new challenges facing the music industry.”
The effort to reach this agreement was led, in large part, by top dancers and choreographers in the industry, including SAG-AFTRA Board members Bobbie Bates, Sharon Ferguson and Galen Hooks, and included a member mobilization campaign that began with the teaming of then-AFTRA and Dancers’ Alliance, a grassroots organization dedicated to educating dancers and building solidarity in the dance community.
Dancer and negotiating committee member Galen Hooks said, “This agreement is revolutionary for the dance community. For the first time, we have nationwide guarantees for health and retirement benefits for performers, choreographers and assistant choreographers, as well as guaranteed fair pay, safe working conditions and reuse fees. I’m so proud of SAG-AFTRA and Dancers’ Alliance.”
The agreement is the first major contract negotiated by SAG-AFTRA, creating a separate contract under the existing AFTRA National Sound Recordings Code that provides safe and fair working conditions and health and retirement for virtually all performers employed in the production of music videos, including dancers, actors, narrators, singers, models and stunt performers. Choreographers and assistant choreographers are also covered in the contract for purposes of receiving health and retirement contributions.
Highlights of the contract include:
- Minimum daily rate for dancers
- Contract covers all videos produced by any production company producing music videos on behalf of the labels
- A 12.5-percent contribution to AFTRA H&R for all covered performers
- Guaranteed production conditions, including water, toilets, chairs and shelters
- A binding grievance and arbitration process
- Union access to auditions, rehearsals and productions
- Improved audition conditions, including notification to performers (or their representatives) of start times; individual audition times no longer than four hours; suitable shelter provided during auditions; scale paid if audition footage is used in a music video and re-use of audition footage is paid pursuant to a re-use agreement
- 12-hour rest periods between call times, including rehearsals, makeup and wardrobe
- Safety protections and additional compensation for hazardous performances
- Wardrobe allowance
- Agreement to form a joint labor-management committee to work together to resolve issues as they arise and to assess employment patterns and other matters over the term of the contract.
Negotiations commenced between AFTRA and the representatives for the labels in June of 2011 and no agreement was reached at that time. The two sides returned to the bargaining table in January 2012, but again, no agreement was reached, though progress was made on a number of issues.
The two sides reached a breakthrough in productive negotiations with informal talks earlier in May. Formal bargaining resumed May 30 and 31, and the deal was ultimately reached at 1:30 a.m. PDT on June 1.
The tentative agreement will now go to the SAG-AFTRA National Board for approval.
The deal, which covers Sony Music, UMG, Warner, EMI, Disney and their subsidiary labels, came less than two weeks after the SAG-AFTRA board gave Executive Director David White the power to issue a “Do Not Work” Order against the labels. Coverage from Variety. The Hollywood Reporter.