SAG-AFTRA Targets Harassment in the Industry and Beyond

The disturbing revelations of pervasive sexual harassment that emerged late last year have served as a clarion call to the industry, and SAG-AFTRA is taking the lead to combat misconduct, launching initiatives on several fronts.

SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris has been leading the charge, undertaking numerous efforts on members’ behalf. She formed a commission to examine safety and harassment, is building partnerships with other unions and industry organizations, worked to strengthen available tools for people to report acts of harassment, and much more.

The overarching effort is called the Four Pillars of Change, and it calls for establishing clear rules and guidelines, empowering members through education, expanded intervention, and building bridges and safety nets (see opposite page). “We unequivocally condemn workplace harassment in all its forms,” Carteris and National Executive Director David White said in a letter to members. “We are committed to finding solutions to ensure a safe work environment for our members wherever they work across the globe.”

SAG-AFTRA’s first step has been the creation of the Code of Conduct on Sexual Harassment. It outlines members’ rights when they are the victims of harassment as well as providing a clear set of expectations for members’ behavior when they are acting in the capacity of an employer on their own projects.

The Code also addresses work in nontraditional worksites, an issue that affects many members. For instance, when actors are attending film festivals to promote films they worked on, they are there in a professional capacity, and it is an employers’ responsibility to ensure they are safe from harassment and assault, just as they would be on set.

A crucial element of the Code of Conduct addresses behavior when members witness sexual harassment. Called “Stop. Support. Report.,” it seeks to change the culture in which harassment is tolerated. As with every significant action the union undertakes, it’s the power of the collective action of the members that is the key to success. The Code states, “To end the pervasive culture of inaction and silence, we must not look the other way. We must intervene to stop the conduct when we can, support those who speak up, and report the conduct.”

Harassment is a violation of the nondiscrimination clause of the Codified Basic Agreement, and that cuts to the heart of two of the union’s most important missions: Enforcing contracts and protecting members. In the past, the challenge was that the union often didn’t learn about misconduct because members were concerned that reporting it could damage their careers. It’s not just the entertainment industry; it’s the same destructive culture that has kept victims in every sector from coming forward. While that hasn’t changed overnight, there are signs of improvement. Since the Weinstein allegations came to light, members are contacting the union with questions and concerns around discrimination and harassment at nearly 40 times the previous rate. And with members embracing the philosophy of “Stop. Support. Report.,” they can be at the forefront of creating a better, more respectful working environment for all.

The zeitgeist of the moment is presenting a chance for real, fundamental change — not just in the industry, but in society as a whole. With women holding the top three elected positions in the union’s governance, SAG-AFTRA is seizing the opportunity. Carteris spoke on the issue this past January at the 24th Annual SAG Awards, addressing her fellow performers and the world. “I am incredibly inspired by the women and men across the country who have shared their truths with such courage and such candor. Truth is power, and women are stepping into their power,” she said. “We are in the midst of a massive cultural shift. With brave voices saying ‘Me Too,’ and advocates who know Time’s Up, we are making a difference. You are making a difference. Change is coming and we are the agents of that change.”

A timeline of change at press time.

OCT. 9

SAG-AFTRA releases a statement decrying the serial abuse allegedly perpetrated by producer Harvey Weinstein and reiterates the union’s zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment.

OCT. 13

The union sends an email to members with a reminder about its Safety Hotline and ways to connect with important resources.

OCT. 26

SAG-AFTRA authors a declaration at the Executive Committee meeting of the International Federation of Actors, urging the entertainment industry around the world to “develop a long-term strategy to achieve a discrimination, harassment and retaliationfree work environment.” The declaration is approved unanimously.

NOV. 14

SAG-AFTRA holds an informational panel for members in Los Angeles. Hosted by President Gabrielle Carteris and featuring fellow members, the panel is moderated by noted women’s rights advocate and attorney Gloria Allred. Allred also delivers a 20-minute teach-in on sexual harassment.

NOV. 17

SAG-AFTRA co-hosts an industry panel with the SAG-AFTRA Foundation in New York featuring Adam Moore, national director, EEO & Diversity; Lowell Peterson, executive director, Writers Guild of America East; and Lydia Dean Pilcher, national vice president, motion pictures, Producers Guild of America.

DEC. 15

SAG-AFTRA joins the newly formed Industrywide Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace. The Commission is chaired by Anita Hill, and both Carteris and SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White are commissioners.

DECEMBER

Carteris and union officials meet with representatives of Time’s Up, the movement formed by highprofile performers to fight sexual harassment and provide support for victims.

JAN. 9

Member Chantal Cousineau testifies on behalf of the union at a hearing of the state Senate Judiciary Committee in support of California Senate Bill 224. The bill is an amendment to existing California sexual harassment law that adds director and producer to the list of examples of relationships that have civil liability for sexual harassment. The bill passed the state Senate unanimously, and is waiting to be heard in the Assembly. The union is also considering sponsoring legislation about nondisclosure agreements in New York.

JAN. 21

Members Brie Larson and Lupita Nyong’o announce the development of SAG-AFTRA’s new Code of Conduct during the 24th Annual SAG Awards.

JAN. 31

Carteris is the featured speaker at the IATSE Women’s Committee Networking Event in L.A.

FEB. 2

The President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Safety establishes a Sexual Harassment Work Group and appoints members to serve.

FEB. 7

Carteris meets with U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier on Capitol Hill to discuss legislative solutions

SAG-AFTRA joins the AFL-CIO leadership summit Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and begins to develop a crossindustry workgroup to review and develop best practices throughout the labor movement.

FEB. 11

The National Board of Directors meets, approves and releases the new Code of Conduct on Sexual Harassment. The Code is part of the broader Four Pillars of Change initiative, which was also announced during the meeting.

MARCH 1

SAG-AFTRA hosted a critical briefing on sexual harassment legislation and policy with members and two state senators who are leading the charge in Sacramento.

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