Taking a page from David Letterman’s Top Ten List, SAG-AFTRA posted on its web site the Top Ten Reasons to Vote Yes for the Tentative Television & Theatrical Contracts.
The campaign launch came four days after the national board approved the deal, triggering a ratification vote by the 165,000 SAG-AFTRA members. Postcards notifying members about voting will be mailed out July 23 and members can vote electronically or by paper ballot with a deadline of Aug. 22, when the votes will be counted.
Some initial opposition from individual members has emerged but that has not coalesced into an organized group yet.
SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reached the agreement July 4 following two months of negotiations. If ratified, the deal would go into effect retroactively to July 1.
The first of the 10 reasons is listed as a “competitive wage package,” which cited annual gains of 2.5%, 3% and 3% and an increase of 0.5% in the pension and health contribution in the first year of the contract.
“We not only improved the funding of the benefits plans—a crucial step toward positioning them to be merged—but also extracted the maximum dollar value from the Producers,” the message said. “Additionally, the network primetime rerun ceilings will increase by 2% each year. It’s as a result of gains like these that your committee was able to secure a deal valued at $30 million more than the 2011 deal ($200 million vs. $170 million), an increase of nearly 18%! This is how the power of one union translates into real dollars in your pocket.”
The message 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. Pro-merger advocates asserted in 2012 that the combined union would have more bargaining power while opponents disputed that contention and argued that SAG would lose its character as an actors-only guild.
The other reasons cited in the message:
— Unified Television Agreement
— An Industry-Wide Deal in Basic Cable
— Television Terms for Programs Made for Netflix-Type Platforms
— Creation of a New Residual for Television Programs
— Improvements to the New Media Streaming Provisions with the “free streaming window” reduced for most shows from 17 to 7 days.
— Gains for Background Actors: Stand-ins working under both Schedule X-I and Schedule X-II will receive outsized wage increases of 5% each year. Background actors working under The CW Supplement will also receive this annual 5% increase. The number of covered positions for background actors on a High Budget SVOD program will go from 10 to 21 in the West Coast zones and from 10 to 25 in the New York zones.
— A More Stable, Predictable Way to Fund our Benefits
— Paving the Road to a Health Plan Merger
— Improvements in the Area of Advance Payment of Residuals