October Flash! AFTRA National VP Holter Graham makes the case for One New Union.

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October Flash! AFTRA National VP Holter Graham makes the case for One New Union.

Dear AFTRA Member:

Our world, and our work, are changing:

  • A proliferation of screens both tiny and enormous, all playing the same content.
  • Interactive video games grossing $200 million their first day on the market.
  • Satellite TV providers producing shows that can only be seen by their subscribers. 
  • Network and local news stations, adrift in the digital marketplace, coercing and cajoling AFTRA members to do more, and more varied, types of work than our hard-won contracts allow.
  • Recording artists, embracing new technology, exploring innovative ways to make, market and distribute their music in the digital landscape.
  • Cable companies and traditional networks battling over retransmission fees because the old model of commercial earnings isn’t working as well as it used to.
  • People cutting the cord and getting all their news and entertainment from New Media sources.

These changes are challenges, but they are also opportunities. A lumbering union that refuses to see the evolution of the work and hunkers down in its old ways to ride out the storm will fail; will become irrelevant.

A vigorous, pragmatic and flexible union that grabs the opportunities new media offers and reshapes itself to be as strong, prepared and widespread as possible will care for its members for long, prosperous years to come.

A merger is when two roadways come together, traffic snarls and nobody gets where they were headed.

A new path, toward a New Union, is a platform on which to build upon our strengths, and abandon our weaknesses. A New Union, populated at the very least by everyone working in front of a camera or microphone -- by workers in every facet of our employers’ multi-tiered, fully integrated business models -- brings with it the leverage required to make sure our members have the opportunity to do quality work for a quality wage, and to earn credits towards our health care and our retirement.

The Presidents’ Forum for One New Union is, to be clear, simply the first step -- and the only logical first step. We must start from a point of firm agreement on the need for and shape of a single entertainment and information industry union for the digital 21st century. Our New Union must organize work under a union banner, while at the same time continuing to collaborate with our partners in profitability -- our employers -- to provide audiences with the highest quality work at wages that guarantee our members can live from the fruit of their labors. Doing so will enable our employers to grow their business models on the platform of our professionalism and attention to quality. They are only as good as we make them look, and we are only as valuable as the products they create in which we ply our trade. Though pugilistic at times, ours is a partnership with our employers. They cannot do it without us, and we would have little to do without them.

Let’s look forward. Let’s build on our strengths. Let’s capitalize on our flexibility and organizing successes. Let’s lay out a blank sheet of paper, roll up our sleeves and build a New Union.

Who’s in?

In solidarity,

Holter Graham
AFTRA National Vice President