Fee raise is first in eight years

Members of the Screen Actors Guild have approved their first dues hike in eight years with a 68% endorsement.

Results, announced Thursday night, showed 27% of SAG’s eligible 114,000 members voted in the referendum. Measure will hike the annual base dues from $100 to $116.

The increase had been submitted to members without any organized opposition. SAG leaders touted the hike as being “modest” with the aim of improving residuals processing, establishing a new-technologies department, strengthening the organizing of non-union productions and prepping for upcoming contract talks.

SAG’s current film-TV contract won’t expire until June 2008, but negotiations could be rocky due to uncertainties over how to compensate actors for programming via downloads and other new-media platforms.

Guild’s dues structure will also see a hike in the initiation fee from $1,474 to $2,211, and the cap on annual earnings subject to dues will be doubled from the current $500,000 to $1 million. New structure will assess dues at a rate of 0.25%, in addition to maintaining the current assessments of 1.85% for earnings up to $200,000 and 0.5% for earnings between $200,000 and $500,000.

In 2004, SAG members turned down a dues hike that would have raised an additional $7.3 million for the $43 million annual budget. In 1999, SAG members OK’d their first dues increase in a dozen years, with base moved up from $85 to $100 a year.

“I commend the membership for their vote of confidence. We will use these new funds wisely to implement our strategic plans,” SAG president Alan Rosenberg said in a statement Thursday. “By generating a potential $5 million-$7 million a year, we can move forward and expand our organizing and emerging technology departments, conduct critical research and maximize our leverage heading into our contract negotiations in 2008.”

SAG members also voted 81% in favor of constitutional amendments for minor changes in election and referendum requirements.

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