SAG-AFTRA Takes on Ad Agency Droga5 Over Non-Union Work

SAG-AFTRA has launched a campaign against its members performing non-union work in commercials for high-profile digital advertising agency Droga5.

Droga5 is an award-winning digital agency that executes high-profile projects for major advertisers, work that would typically otherwise be done through signatory agencies under the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract,” the union said Monday in a notice to its 160,000 members. “We are concerned that Droga5 has done at least some of this work by using union performers on a non-union basis and will be monitoring carefully against that possibility.”

Droga5 did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The New York-based agency was founded in 2006. Its clients include Coca-Cola, Google, Heineken International, Hennessy, Mondelēz International, Motorola, Prudential, Toyota, Scion, Unilever, Under Armour and Qantas.

Earlier this year, the union launched a campaign against performing work in the fast-growing non-union commercial sector in what’s been dubbed the Commercials Organizing and Recapture Initiative. It has also launched a petition drive.

“You may have heard that SAG-AFTRA is increasing pressure on digital advertising agencies to join the future and stop undermining the industry standards that make being a commercial performer a middle-class living,” the union said Monday. “Our effort to organize performers at Droga5 is the first step in that campaign.”

The move comes a week before the Oct. 19 start of SAG-AFTRA’s “wages and working conditions” meetings with the membership to hammer out proposals for its negotiations with the advertising industry.

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 pay increases totaling $238 million during its three-year life.

In the 2013 negotiations, which lasted two months, SAG-AFTRA made little effort to mobilize members in support of its positions. The union appears to be taking a far more assertive stance during the run-up to negotiations, which will start in February.

“Now is the time for action,” SAG-AFTRA said Monday. “Sign the petition and spread the word on social media. SAG-AFTRA will not stand by while agencies undermine wages and benefits while profiting off of professional talent.”

The union did not mention in its message that SAG-AFTRA members can face disciplinary charges for working for non-signatories. It disclosed in a message to members in July 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.

“Disciplinary charges are heard and decided by committees of fellow SAG-AFTRA members,” the message noted. “Consequences for working off the card include fines, suspension and expulsion from the union.”

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