David C. Farmer 

Aloha Brothers and Sisters,

Exciting news on the national front: After a 15-year effort by your union, Telenovela performers, including actors, guest stars, dancers and stunt workers at the Spanish-language TV network Telemundo overwhelmingly voted to unionize with SAG-AFTRA. This brings to a close a protracted dispute between our union and NBCUniversal, the owner of the network. The balloting process began Feb. 7 and successfully concluded four weeks later with 81 percent of eligible voters choosing to unionize.

Miami-based Telemundo, which was acquired by NBCUniversal in 2001, is the largest employer of Spanish-language performers in the United States, providing work for hundreds of actors on its programs. SAG-AFTA argued that NBCUniversal maintained a double standard by providing fair pay and benefits to its English-language performers, while denying the same rights to Spanish-language performers.

The vote marks a huge victory for our performers. Our union has been trying for years to extend benefits to actors who work on the network’s popular shows. In the weeks ahead, our team will sit down with Telemundo to hammer out a collective bargaining contract. 

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As you probably know, we have been on strike since Oct. 21, 2016, against video game employers, including Activision Publishing Inc., Blindlight LLC, Corps of Discovery Films, WB Games Inc., Disney Character Voices Inc., Electronic Arts Productions Inc., Formosa Interactive LLC, VoiceWorks Productions Inc., Insomniac Games Inc., Interactive Associates Inc. and Take 2 Interactive Software, as to all games that went into production after Feb. 17, 2015.

Despite years of concerted effort and negotiating sessions, these employers have refused to reach a fair deal. For updates on the status of the strike, click here. A last attempt to reach an agreement was not successful, and management was unwilling to agree to fair terms that would bring the interactive contract into the 21st century. 

If you have questions, you can call the strike hotline at (323) 549-6815 or email videogames@sagaftra.org.

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Locally, as of this writing, bills extending Act 88/89 (Hawaii’s film production income tax credit) are pending in the State Legislature. The law has been in effect since July 1, 2013, and is slated to sunset Jan. 1, 2019. We and our sister unions strongly support this initiative for several good reasons. Hawaii has successfully hosted national and international film and television projects not only because of our beautiful environment, but also due to the very attractive production tax incentive that has become the basis for aggressive competition throughout the country. In 2009, 44 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., offered some form of film and television production incentives. In 2016, 37 states continue to maintain film incentive programs.

In support of the bills, we have stated that the film production income tax credit:

• Generates tax revenue for the state, helping to solve our economic challenges;

• Pays out only after money is spent, making it a fiscally responsible, sustainable credit that does not give out more money than it brings in;

• Stimulates the economy by bringing in new money into the state;

• Creates thousands of direct industry jobs that pay a living wage and supports thousands more in the hundreds of businesses that interact with the film industry;

• Supports tourism by utilizing visitor industry infrastructure such as hotels, airlines, rental cars and restaurants;

• Provides priceless free advertising for the state; and

• Encourages statewide filming by bringing significant film and television projects to all four Hawai'i counties.

This is a refundable tax credit based on a production company’s Hawaii expenditures while producing a qualified film, television, commercial or digital media project. Highlights of our tax credit law include 20 percent of total qualified production costs incurred while filming in Honolulu County and 25 percent while filming on a neighbor island, with a $15 million credit cap per qualified production and a $200,000 minimum spend.

For further information, you can contact the Hawaii Film Office at (808) 586-2570 or incentives@hawaiifilmoffice.com

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In another legislative initiative, many of us submitted testimony in support of SB 1317, HB1560, which appropriates money for renovations of the future home of UHM’s Academy for Creative Media in the former KHET facilities.

Over the years, we have worked closely and collaboratively with Associate Professor Joel Moffett and the programs of ACM. Many members have participated in table readings for Professor Moffett’s excellent and extraordinary classes. Union representatives have also given informational presentations to students regarding what is entailed in becoming a union member and attaining the highest levels of professionalism. Our local looks forward to many more years of this mutually productive and unique town/gown relationship.

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Your union continues to flourish. Before May 10, 2017, you will receive information about the next election cycle. The next convention is scheduled for Oct. 6–8 in Los Angeles. We hope you will engage and participate in this very important process.

This is your union. Indeed, the union is all of us. We welcome your ideas and support of whatever projects or areas of interest you may have. It continues to be an honor and joy to serve as your president.

In solidarity,

David C. Farmer

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