LOS ANGELES and NEW YORK (October 24, 2009)—The National Board of Directors of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), a national union of more than more 70,000 performers, journalists, broadcasters, recording artists and other talent working in the entertainment and news media, met today by videoconference plenary in Los Angeles and New York.
The AFTRA National Board approved that the tentative agreement with the video game industry for an extension to the AFTRA Interactive Media Agreement, which is currently set to expire on December 31, 2009, be sent out for ratification by a referendum vote of the affected members who perform work under the contract. The Board is sending out the referendum with an overwhelming and strong recommendation for a yes vote on the new terms. The AFTRA Interactive Media Steering Committee, which is made up of members around the country who work this agreement, and the AFTRA Administrative Committee previously approved and recommended to the Board the tentative agreement, which was reached with video game employers in early October. If ratified, the 15-month extension will take effect on January 1, 2010, and remain in full force until March 31, 2011.
The extension delivers a 2.5 percent wage increase and a 0.2 percent increase in employer contributions to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds, both effective April 1, 2010, and a new liquidated damages payment provision to incentivize employers to give notice of vocally stressful work – the first-ever such payment under any union contract. The agreement also preserves the extra “Remote Delivery” payment for performers – currently 135 percent of the original session fee – and establishes a new category of performance called “Atmospheric Performer” that will provide the potential for organizing additional work opportunities for union performers.
“AFTRA members pioneered union work under the Interactive Media Agreement in the early 1990s, and today this contract generates millions of dollars in earnings and benefits for thousands of AFTRA members in both large and small markets around the nation,” said AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon. “As recommended by the Board, it is critical that AFTRA members who work under this agreement and who understand the needs of performers working in video games vote yes to ratify this contract. A yes vote will enable union performers to continue building union density in order to grow their fair share of this multi-billion dollar industry.”
In her report to the Board, AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth announced that the union is moving forward on the internal organizing plan overwhelmingly approved by delegates to the AFTRA National Convention this past summer.
Hedgpeth said, “Anticipating the hard battles ahead in the upcoming 2010 contract negotiations, starting with the Sound Recordings Code which expires on June 30, AFTRA members must work together to build even greater leverage to the confront the challenges in our industries.”
Hedgpeth also reported that the AFTRA Los Angeles Local Unable to Locate (UTL) Fund has paid more than $2 million to more than 3,000 members since 2007. A new tracking system was implemented in September 2008 to help identify and locate members for whom the union receives payments, but is unable to find through standard procedures.
Past National President Shelby Scott, who serves as Union Chair of the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds Board of Trustees, reported that as of September 2009, the Retirement Fund investments are up more than $100 million since she last reported to the Board in August at its face-to-face plenary in Chicago, and the Health Fund has more than a year’s reserves.
In other actions, the Board approved a number of member committee appointments, and received reports from the Finance, Equal Employment Opportunities, Governance and Health and Retirement Issues Committees.
The AFTRA National Board is next scheduled to meet via videoconference plenary session in Los Angeles and New York in February 2010.