SAG-AFTRA Leaders Tout ‘Significant’ Gains in New Contract with Companies

David White Sag Afra
Jim Spellman/WireImage

SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard and national exec director David White (pictured above) have touted “significant gains” in the union’s new tentative deal with production companies — including a compounded 8.7% hike in minimums over three years and unification of the SAG and AFTRA TV contracts.

The duo, in a Fourth of July message to members, labeled the combining of the separate TV deals into a single agreement as “historic.”

“Unifying the legacy SAG and AFTRA contracts was essential and I am very pleased that we were able to achieve that,” Howard said. “As important, we have established an industry-wide, basic cable agreement – something we have wanted for two decades. We’ve also secured a very competitive wage package for members and a large bump in our pension, health and retirement contributions.”

Minimums will see a 2.5% wage gain in the first year, followed by 3% annual wage increases in the next two years. Those gains are based on the SAG legacy contracts, which has a slightly lower rate for TV work than the AFTRA legacy contract.

Howard and White also said, “The deal also calls for improved terms and conditions and full television rate minimums for productions made for subscription video on demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and similar platforms.”

The message to the 165,000 members came about 10 hours after the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers announced that they had reached the three-year tentative agreement. The pact goes before the SAG-AFTRA national board on July 12; should the board approve, it would trigger a ratification vote.

The producers will increase their contribution to the separate SAG and AFTRA pension and health plans by 0.5%. The AMPTP — which serves as the bargaining arm for producers — has also agreed to take steps toward merging the plans.

“We gained outsized wage increases of 5% per year over the three-year term for background performers on the CW and for stand-ins,” Howard and White said.

Aside from the gains for CW performers and the promise to support a merger of the pension and health plans, the agreement largely mirrored the gains achieved by the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America in their new master contracts earlier this year.

That included an increase to the rate paid to performers for streaming product, a reduction in the free streaming window from 17 days to 7 days, and improved residuals formulas.

The performers union and the AMPTP reached the agreement late Thursday at midnight following nearly two months of negotiations — and three 24-hour extensions of the contract expiration.

The new contract replaces the separate SAG and AFTRA contracts which have remained in effect since the 2012 merger.

Both sides had agreed to a news blackout when negotiations launched May 4 at AMPTP headquarters in Sherman Oaks. The initial plans called for concluding the talks on June 13 but the complications of unifying the separate contracts and extracting a pledge from the AMPTP to assist on merging the pension and health plans made it necessary to continue negotiations for another three weeks.

Howard chaired the union’s negotiating committee and White has been SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator. White told the national board in February that he was a candidate as the national exec director of the National Basketball Players Association but insisted that the union would not be damaged were he to depart.

The NBPA has yet to decide on a new exec director.

Leaders of the performers’ union — who have been assiduously non-confrontational in recent years — did not seek a strike authorization. Instead, they opted to keep a low-profile on the substance of negotiations and made no effort to mobilize the members in support of their positions.

Earlier this year, chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez had told members during a “wages and working conditions” meeting that problems could arise if the AMPTP refused to go along with SAG-AFTRA’s desire for a single master contract.

Merger backers had asserted repeatedly that the combined union would have more negotiating power than the separate unions would have had. The pro-merger campaigners also claimed that merging would be a first step toward resolving the problem of members contributing to separate SAG and AFTRA health plans and not earning enough to qualify for either.

Trustees of the SAG plan moved late last year toward “reciprocity,” under which participants in the SAG health plan would be able to use earnings achieved under AFTRA deals to qualify for the SAG plan. That change went into effect Tuesday.

The SAG-AFTRA negotiations started a month after leaders of the WGA reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year master contract, which was easily ratified and went into effect May 1. The DGA’s successor deal went into effect on Tuesday.

The AMPTP issued a statement after the union put out its message:

“We are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with SAG-AFTRA for theatrical, television and new media production. This deal memorializes our partnership with the new union as we worked together to forge a new unified television agreement. The entire industry gains the assurance of a third and final agreement with the above-the-line unions. We congratulate SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard, National Executive Director David White, Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez and all of the members of the SAG-AFTRA Bargaining Committee on a successful negotiation.”

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  1. Howard and White also said, “The deal also calls for improved terms and conditions and full television rate minimums for productions made for subscription video on demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and similar platforms.”

    This is it in a nutshell, with so many platforms and still no improvement – union actors are being ripped off minute by minute. The majors are quick to pull a copyrighted stuff off Youtube, etc. but not quick to pay the actors whose likeness is being exploited while the new media residuals are piss poor. New media is now media! The time is past for improving……..slick marketing story here, sweeping this HUGE one under the rug. And the reciprocity isn’t real, you can’t just choose the Cadillac plan in SAG if you’ve already made AFTRA medical – WHY NOT? Most members would choose the SAG Plan I, but still earnings are split and you are forced to take medical with the union you’ve earned more in. IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE ONE UNION ~ MAKE IT ONE HEALTH PLAN or let the actor decide which one they can get – and that goes for the pension plans too. Actors need to get a class action going and hire a tax and labor lawyers from huge Merger & Acquisition firms (Skadden Arps, etc.) and go after the majors. The little guy is still being ripped off!

  2. common sense says:

    Did this merger make it harder to strike, yes, or no?”
    It’s the only question that matters, long term – and the answer is, of course, “yes.”
    This negotiation would have no impact on that question, and it is the main question.”

    The movie and TV business CANNOT go “overseas.”
    Meaning “Hollywood Stars” are STILL, and I see this ending no time soon, THE draw: for investors, for studios, for networks, and most importantly, FOR CONSUMERS.

    The STARS and their ENFORCED solidarity is the ONLY leverage we HAD. And we HAD it with SAG. With SAG-AFTRA we do NOT, because it will not be legally enforceable in SAG-AFTRA, but it was in SAG. Period, end of argument.

    Is the rank and file actor on the streets in LA and NYC getting BETTER since merger,or worse?”
    Be honest.

    Is there MORE non-unionism, or less? Be honest. Are there outrageous listings showing up left, right, and center SINCE merger cause producers will OF COURSE know that actors are ALWAYS desperate and now, especially so, and will take a REALLY shitty union deal, OR, work NON-UNION.
    Be honest. “YES.”

    NOTHING in this contract changes any of that.

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