AFTRA running low

Org details deficits that spurred fee hikes

HOLLYWOOD — The American Federation of Television & Radio Artists has admitted its reserves have been depleted to less than two months of operating expenses after posting deficits for the past seven years.

The disclosure is part of the union’s explanation to its 80,000 members as to why they’re being hit with a 5% increase in dues Nov. 1, plus a $50 assessment, followed by the same hikes Nov. 1, 2004.

AFTRA first announced it would take those steps two months ago at its national convention but it had not previously disclosed the extent of its losses, which include operating deficits totaling $8 million during the last five fiscal years.

Running in red

“No organization can have its expenses outstrip its revenues indefinitely and AFTRA is no exception,” the union said in a recent four-page missive to members. “A healthy union should have at least six months operating expenses in reserve in order to handle unexpected and extraordinary expenses such as prolonged legal proceedings, acrimonious contract negotiations, public campaigns and job actions. Our reserves have now been depleted to less than two months of operating expenses.”

AFTRA announced earlier this year that it was running at a $2 million deficit on revenues of $25 million, but the message said the actual deficit for its fiscal year, ended April 30, was $1.2 million.

The union asserted that it has lowered expenses during the past decade by centralizing operations, reducing real estate and travel costs, producing publications inhouse, and cutting administrative supply and mailing costs. And it claimed that its dues are dramatically less than other industry unions.

Standing alone

The increased dues will come four months after AFTRA’s second attempt in four years to merge with the Screen Actors Guild was spurned by SAG voters; AFTRA members again supported the deal. The pro-merger campaign had stressed that both orgs were operating in the red and touted financial benefits of merging duplicative operations as a key reason for merging.

Details of the revisions:

  • Each year’s $50 assessment will be effective Nov. 1 and members may pay in a lump sum or in two $25 installments.

  • Base dues will increase by 5% each year from a current $116, effective Nov. 1.

  • The initiation fee will rise to $1,300 from $1,200 on Nov. 1.

  • The convention also voted that the national board should study increasing the current dues structure, under which members pay less than 2% of earnings up to $250,000, and conduct a referendum to approve such an increase.

Dues bills were mailed the week of Oct. 13 and reached members a few days ago.

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