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SAG-AFTRA Sets Commercial Negotiations for February

With no fanfare, SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry have set a February start for negotiations for a successor deal to the union’s master contract.

The current three-year deal — which covers about $1 billion in annual earnings — expires on March 31. It was the first major successor agreement to go into effect under the 2012 merger of SAG and AFTRA and received 96% support in the ratification vote, with increases totaling $238 million during its three-year life.

Douglas Wood, the lead negotiator for the ad industry, told Variety that starting in February is “nothing unusual” since the 2013 negotiations started around the same time. No specific date has been set.

SAG-AFTRA did not respond to a request for comment. Its rules require that the union leadership appoint a negotiating committee that will conduct “wages and working conditions” meetings with the membership to hammer out proposals, then meet with the national board for approval of that package before negotiations begin.

In the 2013 negotiations, which lasted two months, SAG-AFTRA made little effort to mobilize members in support of its positions. However, in recent months, the union has launched a campaign against performing work in the fast-growing non-union commercial sector.

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Dubbed the Commercials Organizing and Recapture Initiative, the campaign aims to expand the jurisdiction of the performers’ union over commercials work and has held five townhall meetings with members. Thanks to information sent in by members, SAG-AFTRA caught 40 non-union commercials being produced by advertisers already signed to the commercials contracts — and turned all of those into union commercials.

SAG-AFTRA also disclosed in a recent message to members that more than a dozen members were referred to the SAG-AFTRA legal department for Global Rule 1 disciplinary proceedings based on evidence gathered as part of this organizing initiative.

The union’s efforts to mobilize its 160,000 members on commercials work grew out of work that began lst year through its  Commercial Performers Committee. Earlier this year, SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard formed the President’s Task Force for Education, Outreach and Engagement in order to spark more activism from members.

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