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SAG-AFTRA Members Ratify New Film-TV Contract

SAG-AFTRA members have ratified the successor deal for a new three-year master contract for primetime TV and feature films.

The pact generated opposition from about one in every four members who voted. About 76% of members approved the deal with about 15% of the 144,000 eligible members voting — or about 22,000 in all.

The ratification vote was triggered on July 15 when 77.4% of the union’s national board approved the new pact. Negotiators for SAG-AFTRA reached a tentative deal at 6 a.m. on July 4 with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, following three separate 24-hour contract extensions.

The union has touted “significant” improvements in the residuals rate paid to performers for exhibition of their performances on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon. Under the new terms, actors will receive residuals for exhibition on subscription video on-demand platforms earlier, now after 90 days instead of after one year.

Additionally, the new formula contains a 300% increase in residuals within the first two years when exhibited worldwide on Netflix. The union also said background actors achieved gains including superior overtime rules for background actors working in the west coast.

The contract covers work by SAG-AFTRA members that generates more than $1 billion in annual compensation. The union has about 160,000 members; ballots were sent to about 90% of those, or 144,000, who were paid up on their dues.

Opponents of the deal — who objected to changes in travel provisions and a lack of gains in basic cable — were not able to have a minority report included in the ballot materials because the July 15 vote by the national board vote did not meet the required 25% “no” vote threshold that would have mandated such a move.

The question of whether to ratify the contract emerged in recent weeks as the key issue among three of the five SAG-AFTRA presidential candidates. Current SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, who chaired the negotiating committee and heads the moderate Unite for Strength faction, strongly endorsed the deal.

Esai Morales, head of the Membership First faction, and stuntman Peter Antico pushed for a “No” vote. Independents Robert B. Martin Jr. and Marilyn Monrovia did not take positions on the ratification.

The new deal is retroactive to July 1. It provides for $256 million in increased pay over the three years with minimums increasing by 2.5% in the first year, 3% in the second year, and 3% in the third year. Employers will also provide a 0.5% hike in contributions paid to the SAG pension plan and AFTRA retirement fund in the first year of the agreement along with “significant” improvements in the residuals rate paid by streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon.

Morales, who heads the Membership First ticket of self-styled progressives, detailed problems with changes in travel costs, basic cable, motion-capture, and background players in the tentative deal, asserting that SAG-AFTRA leaders had promised to rectify perceived abuses and have failed to do so. He also questioned reaching a deal at 6 a.m. on July 4, asserting that fatigue may have played a factor in making concessions and said he did not understand the tactic of promising to seek a strike authorization from members, but never following through.

Antico, who’s running independently, has asserted that the deal falls short for stunt performers, background actors, dancers, singers, and voiceover artists and includes unacceptable concessions in compensation for travel. Ballots for the SAG-AFTRA presidential election are due Aug. 24.

Three years ago, SAG-AFTRA members gave 92% support to ratification of the deal from approximately 22,000 who cast ballots following a campaign by union leaders touting a $200 million increase in compensation over its term. Little opposition emerged to that deal.

“With these new provisions, members will be compensated for global use of their work on streaming new media platforms – such as Netflix and Amazon – in addition to seeing significant gains in streaming media residuals,” Carteris said in a statement after the vote.

“These gains speak not just to today, but to our future by establishing important new guidelines on travel and options as well as providing meaningful gains for the background community,” she added. “I thank the many members who had input throughout this process. The gains in this contract reflect their hard work and their voices in negotiations. I am also very grateful to my fellow negotiating committee members, to National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator David White and to the dedicated SAG-AFTRA staff who worked to ensure our new contract builds for the next generation of television and theatrical production.”

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