LOS ANGELES and NEW YORK (Jan. 22, 2011) – The National Board of Directors of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA, AFL-CIO) met today by videoconference plenary in Los Angeles and New York and overwhelmingly passed a resolution formally authorizing AFTRA leadership to continue working with Screen Actors Guild in the Presidents’ Forum for One Union and its “Listening Tour” between now and the Board’s next regular meeting on May 14. Today’s vote marks the first time the AFTRA National Board has officially acted on the Presidents’ Forum.
The resolution also instructs the AFTRA members of the Presidents’ Forum to continue the “Listening Tour” in the major AFTRA Locals – which include Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Washington/Baltimore – and in as many of the other Locals as possible between now and the next Board meeting. It also directs the Presidents’ Forum members and AFTRA’s National Strategy Cabinet – a committee of members representing professional performers, broadcasters and recording artists and tasked with making strategic recommendations to the President – to present their findings to the Board at its meeting on May 14 and make recommendations about next steps in the process, including whether or not to create a committee to engage in formal discussions with SAG to bring the unions’ memberships together into a new, successor union for the 21st century.
The full text of the resolution reads:
Resolution to Facilitate Creation of One New Successor Union
WHEREAS, the overwhelming majority of AFTRA’s past and present elected leadership and AFTRA’s general membership have long supported the concept of combining AFTRA and the Screen Actors Guild into a new successor union; and
WHEREAS, in both 1998 and in 2003, AFTRA’s Local and National elected leadership and AFTRA’s general membership successfully delivered a resounding "yes" vote in separate referenda on the question of combining AFTRA and SAG into a new successor union; and
WHEREAS, AFTRA’s current elected leadership is encouraged by the renewed interest expressed by SAG’s current leadership in bringing AFTRA and SAG together into a new successor union; and
WHEREAS, past attempts to bring AFTRA and SAG together, including those in 1998 and 2003, were predicated on 20th century viewpoints and the 20th century world of work of the unions’ memberships; and
WHEREAS, the work done during those past attempts, while laudable and appropriate for their times, is no longer relevant to 21st century technology, 21st century employment patterns and the media and entertainment industries of the 21st century; and
WHEREAS, the Presidents’ Forum for One Union, established informally in 2010, has begun a process of meeting with representative and diverse focus groups of members to hear directly about the issues, concerns, challenges, opportunities, points of view and working realities of 21st century members in order to understand and identify the vision, strategy and goals that a 21st century union should pursue; and
WHEREAS, this “Listening Tour” process is a visionary improvement over past processes, and acknowledges that defining the strategies and goals relevant to members in the 21st century is a mandatory first step before any concrete plans to build a structure for a new successor union are developed;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
The National Board of AFTRA applauds and endorses the work of the Presidents’ Forum to engage in this “Listening Tour” process; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Board of AFTRA authorizes and directs the AFTRA appointees of the Presidents Forum to continue this “Listening Tour” process with their counterparts from SAG, between now and the next scheduled meeting of the AFTRA National Board; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Board of AFTRA further directs that the continuation of this process must include a “Listening Tour” session in every Major Local of AFTRA, and as many of AFTRA’s Field Locals as scheduling practicalities permit, prior to the next meeting of the AFTRA National Board; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the AFTRA appointees to the Presidents’ Forum are directed to report their findings and recommendations to the AFTRA Strategy Cabinet; with the further direction that the AFTRA Strategy Cabinet shall make a recommendation to the AFTRA National Board based on input from the AFTRA appointees to the Presidents’ Forum, at the Board's next regular meeting; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that at the next regular meeting of the AFTRA National Board, the findings and recommendations from the Presidents’ Forum and the AFTRA Strategy Cabinet shall include their conclusions and recommendations on whether, and in what form, the AFTRA National Board should establish a committee to engage in formal discussions with a corresponding authorized committee of SAG, if any, to bring AFTRA and SAG together as a new, successor union for the 21st century.
AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon praised the Board’s action saying: “I applaud the leadership of the AFTRA National Board and the hard work of AFTRA members which, together, have brought this union to where we are today. Our world of work is very different than it was the last time we tried to bring our unions together, so any new, successor union we hope to create must also be different, and to do that successfully, we must be guided by a clear vision for the future. As we continue and advance this ambitious project in partnership with the Screen Actors Guild, I urge all AFTRA members – performers, recording artists and broadcasters – to imagine not just how good, but how much better we can be together.”
In related action, the National Board approved an unusual expenditure of a stipend for the National President for a specific and limited period of time to offset the loss of financial income from work opportunities she will miss in order to conduct the Presidents’ Forum “Listening Tour” on an accelerated schedule as directed by the National Board.
The National Board today received a presentation on the fight to curb the digital theft of copyrighted material online. The Board voted overwhelmingly to approve the union’s work in the effort to address this threat to AFTRA members’ livelihoods.
AFTRA General Counsel and National Director of Legislative Affairs Tom Carpenter said: “Illegal file sharing costs 140,000 jobs and $5.5 billion annually which is why fighting copyright theft is an important part of AFTRA’s mission to protect every member’s ability to earn a living as a creative professional. The entertainment community must find a successful solution to the threat posed by this devastating criminal activity. “
The National Board received an update on preparations for negotiation of AFTRA’s Interactive Media Agreement, an AFTRA-only contract which expires on March 31. In addition, the Board received an update on preparations for negotiations for the AFTRA Non-Broadcast/Industrial/Educational Recorded Material Code, which expires on April 30 and which will be renegotiated jointly with Screen Actors Guild. No bargaining dates have yet been set for either agreement.
In her report to the National Board, AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth advised that ratification is currently underway on an 18-month extension to the AFTRA Sound Recordings Code. Voting will take place electronically online and by phone, with votes due back on Feb. 8. If ratified, the extension will expire on Dec. 31, 2011.
Hedgpeth also reported to the Board that during the first six months of the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the union has collected more than $7 million on behalf of AFTRA members through claims, grievances, arbitrations, legal action and legal settlements.
Shelby Scott, Union Chair of the Trustees of the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds and past AFTRA National President, reported to the Board that a preliminary review of the AFTRA H&R Funds financials indicate that the Retirement Fund gained 11% in the last fiscal year (Dec. 1, 2009 through Nov. 30, 2010) and that the Retirement Fund continues to operate in the “green zone.” Further, the AFTRA Health Fund has more than a year’s assets in reserve. The Trustees will gather for their regularly scheduled face-to-face meeting this coming week in New York.
In other action, the Eastern Section of the National Board elected Philadelphia member Bill Shusta to replace Atlanta member Dick Klinger on the Eastern section of the Administrative Committee. Klinger’s resignation from longtime service on the AFTRA National Board was announced today, and his replacement to the National Board will be elected by the Atlanta Local Board later this week. Los Angeles member Alan Ruck also resigned from the National Board and the Los Angeles Local Board has elected actor Matt Kimbrough to replace him.
The National Board approved the appointment of members to a range of committees including the Blue Ribbon Committee on Agents, and the Information Technology, Health and Retirement Issues and Convention Procedures Committees. AFTRA’s next National Convention, the union’s highest governing body convened biennially, will be held on July 21 – 23 in Seattle, Wash. The National Board also approved replacements for AFTRA’s representatives on the boards of directors of Career Transition For Dancers and Theater Authority East to replace longtime staff member and former National Director of Administration Terry Walker. Walker retired on Jan. 8 after more than 30 years of service to members.
Board members received a report from outside counsel regarding anonymous allegations made against New York National Board member David Browde that he had violated the AFL-CIO facilitated No Raiding/Non-Disparagement Agreement between AFTRA and Screen Actors Guild. The investigation by outside counsel revealed that no violations of either the Agreement or the union’s internal rules on confidentiality had been violated. The report was made during an executive session of the National Board and all details of the findings remain confidential.
Committee reports were also presented to the National Board from the tri-union IAMPWD Campaign, and the Equal Employment Opportunities, Finance, Women’s, Broadcast Steering and National Audiobooks Steering Committees.
The Board convened its meeting in memory of legendary AFTRA broadcaster John FitzGerald, a longtime National and Cleveland Local Board member who served as a Trustee of the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds until his death this past Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2010.
The National Board of Directors will next meet by videoconference plenary in Los Angeles and New York on May 14.