SAG and AFTRA Members Overwhelmingly Say "YES" to One-Year Contract Extension

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SAG and AFTRA Members Overwhelmingly Say "YES" to One-Year Contract Extension

Agreement secures better pay and benefits for working actors, as well as historic alignment of unions’ bargaining power; unions now turn attention to fall negotiations

Los Angeles (March 18, 2004) – Members of Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) have overwhelmingly ratified a one-year extension of the current Television/Motion Picture and AFTRA Exhibit A agreements, it was announced today by both unions. By broad margins in Hollywood, New York and in branches across the country, America’s working actors voted to secure gains in wages, benefits and other crucial areas, as well as to consolidate their power headed into a new round of negotiations that will begin in the fall.

Overall, the memberships of SAG and AFTRA voted 88 percent to 12 percent in favor of the extension. The vote count in SAG’s Hollywood division was 83 percent to 17 percent in favor, 88 percent to 12 percent in the New York division, and 92 percent to eight percent in SAG’s regional branch division. Twenty-nine percent of the approximately 122,000 members of the unions that received ballots returned their vote, which is historically consistent with referenda on union contracts. The final vote was certified this evening by Integrity Voting Systems.

“This is a significant victory for working actors across the country,” said SAG President Melissa Gilbert. “In an era of technological change and media consolidation, this vote is a powerful statement that working actors are united as never before. SAG actors will earn more than one billion dollars in earnings through this contract next year. I am proud that members across the country in all of our branches voted by wide margins to ratify the great work that was done by our negotiating team. I look forward to vigorous negotiations with producers this fall when we will fight for a greater share of residual revenue, increased support for our pension and health plans and better terms for our background actors.”

AFTRA President John Connolly said: “I am gratified by the overwhelming vote in favor of this extension. By thinking creatively and strategically, our negotiating committee and staff delivered a solid set of gains for working actors and positioned the unions to effectively build upon those gains in the next round of talks. It is clear from this vote that the members of AFTRA and SAG endorsed that approach. This is simply another example of what these unions can achieve if we remain focused and united.”

This is the third time in history that America’s working actors have ratified a contract extension. In each case, the extension helped consolidate influence headed into critical negotiations. The first extension, ratified in 1947, helped unify actors to increase their bargaining clout at the advent of television. The second extension, in 1967, paved the way for TV and motion pictures contracts to terminate at the same time, so screen and television actors could present a united front and negotiate their interests together. Among the key gains achieved in this agreement is the unions’ right to negotiate jointly on all terms and conditions for primetime television programming, whereas in the past producers have been able to pit the unions against one another by preserving different expiration dates for primetime contracts.

“This is the best of both worlds,” explained SAG National Executive Director/CEO Bob Pisano, who served as chief negotiator for SAG alongside AFTRA National Executive Director Greg Hessinger. “The right to negotiate jointly on all primetime television programming gives us leverage unseen since the advent of television. Additionally, by opting for an extension over a new three-year contract, the unions will wield this new power almost immediately when we enter into new negotiations with the producers this fall.”

AFTRA’s Hessinger added: “This agreement is a major win for our memberships. It includes not just increases in wages and benefits, but equal pay for equal work for WB and UPN actors. And we have a second opportunity to face the producers stronger and more united than ever within the year.” Specifically, the extension delivers a 2.5% minimum salary increase; a 0.5% bump to both unions’ health plans; grants freelance actors and stunt coordinators on primetime dramas and sitcoms for WB and UPN shows the same upfront minimum wages as their counterparts on ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX; and, adds coverage of an additional background actor for each West Coast television show.

The extension also grants SAG and AFTRA the right to negotiate future contracts side-by-side. And, already, both unions have affirmed that continuing pay and benefit gains, as well as progress on DVD revenue and other residual structures are top priorities for the fall negotiations. The unions will now turn their attention to the launch of a contract campaign that will focus on the priorities for fall negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on a new three-year TV/Motion Pictures contract. Those priorities include achieving more equitable and lucrative residual formulas for secondary distribution markets, including DVDs, pay TV, and made-for-basic cable, as well as increased funding for the unions’ pension and health plans, further unification of television agreements and stronger terms for background actors. No specific date has yet been set for fall negotiations.