Extra Union Seg-Regated From Commercial Bargaining Talks

Calling the Screen Extras Guild “defunct for all practical purposes” and a “stalking horse” for the Screen Actors Guild, John McGuinn, spokesman and chief negotiator for the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, announced last week that the two groups have formally withdrawn recognition of SEG as the bargaining agent for commercial extras and will not negotiate with the guild in the round of bargaining for a new tv commercials contract.

The announcement, further complicating a tangled jurisdictional dispute over commercial extras, came a week before commercials contract talks were set to begin in New York.

Last month, SAG, which represents extras working on filmed commercials in the New York area, filed with the National Labor Relations Board seeking to get control of covers extras working on filmed commercials almost everywhere else in the nation. The ANA and the AAAA, however, have declined to recognize SAG’s bid to represent commercials extras nationally, and the NLRB has deferred action on SAG’s petitions until the round of bargaining for a new SAG commercials contract is completed.

The American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, which has national jurisdiction over extras working on taped tv commercials, will be joining SAG in those contract talks, which begin this week. AFTRA is not involved in the dispute over commercial extras jurisdiction.

McGuinn, in a Jan. 8 letter to SEG national executive director H. O’Neil Shanks, said the decision to exclude SEG from the contract talks was partly based on the fact that the Associated Actors & Artists of America – the parent organization of all U.S. performers unions that links them to the AFL-CIO – determined last year that SEG has become increasingly incapable of representing its members at the bargaining table.

McGuinn also cited SEG’s inability to reach an agreement for a new film and tv contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, which is embroiled in a similar battle with SAG and SEG over extras jurisdiction.

McGuinn also pointed out to Shanks that when SAG petitioned the NLRB to assume SEG’s commercials jurisdiction, SEG put up no opposition. “In the circumstances,” McGuinn told Shanks, “it would appear that any participation by SEG in 1991 commercial negotiations would be in the nature of a ‘stalking horse’ or ‘front’ for SAG.

“Since we have declined to recognize SAG on a voluntary basis for a nationwide unit of extra performers, it would be inconsistent… to recognize SEG in such a unit when it would appear that SEG is only artificially being kept in place until the hoped-for SAG jurisdictional expansion over extras is complete.”

The joint policy committee of the ANA and the AAAA, which is the advertising industry’s bargaining arm dealing with talent unions for performers appearing in tv and radio commercials, has negotiated with SEG every three years since 1963, when the joint policy committee was formed, McGuinn said.

McGuinn added that he felt the ongoing jurisdictional dispute over extras “can be worked out, no question about it. The NLRB will decide it.”

He noted, however, that if the ANA and the AAAA disagree with the NLRB’s ruling, “We’ll take it through the legal process.” McGuinn said that his organizations would “definitely disagree” if the NLRB gave SAG national jurisdiction over commercial extras.

An attorney for SEG had no comment on the matter last week, but SEG is expected to challenge its exclusion from the upcoming round of bargaining.

SAG and SEG commercial extras earn approximately $230 a day but, unlike principal performers, receive no residuals. In 1989, SAG actors earned $255 million in commercial residuals, plus another $68 million in session fees.

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