SAG approves boost in dues

Fees will bring in an additional $7 mil per year

Members of the Screen Actors Guild will have to pay more money to get more money — from residuals checks, that is.

SAG’s national board approved a referendum late Sunday by a near-unanimous vote that would boost receipts between $5 million and $7 million annually for the guild’s $55 million budget.

SAG said the funds are needed for improved processing of residuals checks — often delivered several months late — along with bolstering organizing, a new tech department and financing research and campaigns for the upcoming TV/theatrical and commercials contracts, both of which expire in 2008.

If accepted, the dues base would increase from $100 to $116 per year; the initiation fee would rise from $1,474 to $2,211; and the annual earnings cap — income subject to dues — would rise from $500,000 to $1 million, with those earnings taxed at 0.25%. Actors earning less than $200,000 would still pay 1.85% of earnings, and members who make between $200,001 and $500,000 would still pay 0.5% of earnings more than $200,000.

The move to hike dues comes two years after members narrowly spurned a dues hike that would have raised an additional $7.3 million annually. That proposal called for base dues to increase by $30 per year to $130 and for work dues to rise from 1.85% to 1.95% for earnings under $200,000 and from 0.5% to 1% on wages from $200,000-$500,000; new-member initiation fees would have jumped from $1,356 to $2,085.

Though SAG spent $4.4 million in a technology upgrade in 2002, delivery of residuals checks hasn’t improved. Guild receives more than 200,000 such checks per month, but hasn’t ever been able to convince studios and nets to automate the process.

The AFTRA-SAG Federal Credit Union, which has been handling about 20,000 checks monthly, told members in August it would stop direct deposit of the checks as of Dec. 1 after doing things that way for the past three decades. The credit union said the amount of time it was taking for the process was unacceptable, and placed the blame on a lack of automation.

SAG members last approved a dues hike in 1999.

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