AFTRA battles BET

Union imposes 'no-contract, no-work' order

Members of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists meeting in San Francisco voted Saturday to impose a “no-contract, no-work” order against the cable program “Comic View,” produced by Black Entertainment Network.

The order follows the network’s apparent refusal to bargain with AFTRA for a contract that would cover “Comic View” and its performers, who are paid a one-time fee of just $150, with no residuals, no limits on subsequent use of material, and no expenses or benefits.

“This type of exploitation of AFTRA members cannot be tolerated,” said Boston newswoman Shelby Scott, who was elected to an unprecedented fourth term as the union’s national president.

Wrong to work

AFTRA, an 80,000-strong union of broadcasters, actors and other performers, instructed members to refrain from working on “Comic View” until a contract is in place. A statement from the union said BET has moved production of “Comic View” from Los Angeles to Atlanta “in the face of an active organizing drive.”

A BET spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

At AFTRA’s 57th convention, at the Argent Hotel, delegates amended the union’s constitution to eliminate term limits for the post of president. Until now, the constitution limited the president to three two-year terms.

Eleven other officers were elected to two-year terms: John Connolly, first vice president; Dick Kay, second VP; Susan Boyd, J.R. Horne, Bob Edwards, Belva Davis, Dave Corey, Reed Farrell and Jimmy Wright, vice presidents; Mitchell McGuire, national treasurer; and Bernie Allan, recording secretary.

National exec director Bruce York told the convention that AFTRA has bargained 500 cable contracts in the last four years, which put “an additional $30 million in cable earnings into members’ pockets.”

Benefits up

Dina Goldman, trustee of AFTRA’s Health & Retirement Funds, reported that, since 1990, retirement benefits have been increased nine times, or approximately 100%. A new, separate retirement plan has been negotiated as part of the union’s network code.

AFTRA’s Equal Employment Opportunities Committee presented its eighth American Scene Awards, which recognize advertisers and producers who portray diversity in a realistic manner. The top honor, the Crystal Award, went to AchieveGlobal for “The Service Difference,” a corporate training film that employed a multi-ethnic cast.

The award for a dramatic production went to Magic Production Co. for “What Angels Fear,” by Alex P. Michaels. The production showed that local programming “from the African-American voice can be riveting, important and interesting to the entire community,” the citation said.

“Bill Nye, the Science Guy,” was given an honorable mention for presenting multiracial men and women in fields of science.

The convention went on record as opposing restrictive noncompete clauses in contracts and as supporting full funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Delegates also endorsed pending California and federal legislation that would grant tax credits for companies that produce union-covered programs or films in the United States.

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