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SAG-AFTRA Seeking Member Help on Earnings Reporting

SAG-AFTRA is asking its 165,000 members for help in reporting their earnings — even though doing so may mean performers will wind up paying higher dues.

The union, which was formed last March from the merger of SAG and AFTRA, sent notices to members this week explaining that it needs them to report 2012 earnings that were not fully disclosed to the SAG and AFTRA pension and health funds. The current P&H contribution rate by employers for actors is 16.5% of performers compensation.

“Your union is employing a variety of procedures during this transitional period to ensure that we capture all earnings for our members, and that we have a full understanding of the earnings that accrue under all contracts within our jurisdiction,” the message said. “Information about the overwhelming bulk of member earnings is captured through reports from the SAG Pension & Health Plans and AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds. However, for certain types of work, the H&R Funds and P&H Plans receive limited earnings data and our information is captured through alternative methods that have been established and refined over time.”

SAG-AFTRA did not disclose in the notice how much of the performer earnings were not included and a SAG-AFTRA spokesperson had no comment. The union asked members to complete the report by March 15 in order to ensure that the correct dues are assessed.

Each SAG-AFTRA member pays annual base dues of $198. In addition, members pay 1.575% of all individual earnings under SAG or AFTRA contracts up to $500,000. Dues are calculated on an annual basis, and paid in two installments — the first on May 1, and the second on Nov. 1 with bills mailed before each due date.

Self-reporting earnings is unusual for U.S. union members generally though both SAG and AFTRA had requested members to do so prior to the merger. AFTRA handled hundreds of different local contracts in broadcast while SAG’s contracts were mostly national.

This week’s notice said 2012 earnings would be include SAG-AFTRA, SAG and AFTRA contracts: all film, radio and TV programs and commercials (session fees, residuals, etc.); sound recordings (session payments and all artist royalties earned, including domestic and foreign sales, and licensing agreements); music videos; new media, interactive, corporate/educational and non-broadcast projects; and compensation for broadcast station staff personnel.

In its LM-2 report filed in July with the U.S. Dept. of Labor, SAG-AFTRA said it had taken in $4.315 million as dues in its first month as a new union as part of $12.028 million in receipts while expenses totaled $13.581 million. That monthly dues figure would equate to about $52 million annually.

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