UPDATED: SAG-AFTRA has called for an end to the practice of holding professional meetings in private hotel rooms or residences.
“We are committed to addressing the scenario that has allowed predators to exploit performers behind closed doors under the guise of a professional meeting,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris.
The move, announced Thursday, is called Guideline No. 1 and is the first expansion of the union’s two-month-old Code of Conduct initiative to confront harassment and advance equity in the industry. SAG-AFTRA released a “Code of Conduct on Sexual Harassment” on Feb. 10 instructing its 160,000 members on how to deal with the issue.
Thursday’s move followed input from members, experts, and industry stakeholders. SAG-AFTRA said issuing the guideline reflects its dedication to upholding professional standards and “addressing the unprofessional and unlawful workplace culture that too many of our members face.”
Guideline No. 1 calls upon producers and other decision makers to refrain from holding professional meetings in hotel rooms and private residences. It also urges members and their representatives not to agree to professional meetings in these high-risk locations. In the rare event that there is no reasonable alternative to having the meeting in such a location, Guideline No. 1 establishes the concept of a “Support Peer” to accompany the member during the meeting.
It also said that the guideline is applicable to SAG-AFTRA members who are acting as producers or decision makers with influence or control over decisions that can impact another’s career.
“All professionals, including SAG-AFTRA members, are expected to refrain from engaging in harassing conduct and support efforts to eliminate this scourge from the workplace,” the union said.
Carteris has been active on the issue since October’s bombshell allegations about disgraced executive Harvey Weinstein. Carteris and National Executive Director David White have said previously that the number of reports of sexual harassment that come into SAG-AFTRA have recently been averaging at least five a day — far above the level prior to October.
Carteris said in a message to members, “Guideline No. 1 calls for a STOP to meetings in private hotels and residences; SUPPORT of each other as we put an end to this practice and insist on a Support Peer to join us at an audition or meeting in a high-risk location; and asks that you REPORT any abuse of SAG-AFTRA contract provisions and any time you feel unsafe as a result of being required to hold a professional meeting in a high-risk location.”
Anita Hill, chair of the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, issued a statement Thursday in response:
“The Commission applauds SAG-AFTRA’s recently issued Guideline No. 1, which aims to put an end to auditions and interviews in private hotel rooms or at private residences. The implementation of this guideline marks an important first step in communicating appropriate industry standards for professional practices. This is exactly the kind of action the Commission encourages as part of our ongoing effort to introduce systemic changes that create safer, fairer and more equitable workspaces throughout the industry. We call on other stakeholders to support SAG-AFTRA’s effort and encourage them to adopt similar guidelines within their own institutions.”