Voting has begun in SAG-AFTRA’s first-ever master contract covering work in movies, primetime TV and new media over three years.

The performers union has mailed notifications to approximately 137,000 members with instructions on how to vote online or how to request a paper ballot. Votes must be received by 5 p.m. PDT on Aug. 22 with tabulation immediately after the deadline.

Informational meetings about the new contracts will be held Aug. 5.

Union leaders launched a campaign a week ago to persuade members to vote “Yes,” listing the “top 10” reasons to do so — led by a $200 million increase in compensation over the three years. Those reasons were included in the referendum booklet mailed to members, signed by president Ken Howard and national exec director David White.

A few members have objected to the contract as falling short. But the Membership First group, which has usually provided much of the opposition in recent years to the policies of the moderate-leaning national board, has not weighed in on the tentative deal.

The booklet did not mention that the gains essentially mirrored those achieved earlier in the year by the new master contracts that were signed by the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America and that the increases in minimums for TV are based on the lower SAG rate.

If approved by members, the new contract will replace the separate SAG and AFTRA contracts which have remained in effect since the 2012 merger. Leaders have also asserted that ratification will pave the way for a merger of the separate SAG and AFTRA pension and health plans.

The new contract also specifies which plan will receive contributions for new TV shows — rather than allowing producers to make that choice. SAG’s Pension and Health Plan will receive contributions from new one-hour network shows, new half-hour basic cable shows, all shows made for syndication other than those for the CW, and those for new media, pay TV and home video.

AFTRA’s Health and Retirement fund will receive contributions on earnings from new half-hour network shows, new one-hour basic cable shows, all new longform TV shows  and everything made for CW.

Existing shows will continue to make contributions to the same plan.

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