The rally took the form of a mock bake sale to raise funds for BBH. The union told its 160,000 members on Sept. 20 not to work for the ad agency, which had publicly announced that it had withdrawn from the contract, asserting that the agreement is outdated and accusing the union of being inflexible.
“We are proud performers who are lucky enough to have the protections of our union,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “All we want is the ability to support our families and to work under safe conditions that our collective bargaining agreements offer us. We will continue to fight for our right to make a living doing the work we love.”
SAG-AFTRA executive vice president and NY local president Rebecca Damon said, “BBH complains that paying performers a living wage is just too expensive and they don’t have enough dough to pay us, so we’re helping them out with some dough of our own. All kidding aside, this is serious business. In a time when corporations are willing to devalue people’s work and their worth, SAG-AFTRA and our allies are here to take a stand. That’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re standing strong. And that’s why we we’re not giving up.”
Damon was joined by New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, State Senator Brad Hoylman, NY State AFL-CIO president Mario Cilento, New York City Central Labor Council president Vincent Alvarez, and Deputy Manhattan Borough president Aldrin Bonilla.
BBH is owned by Publicis Groupe, a multinational communications and marketing company that owns several ad agencies including SAG-AFTRA signatories Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett. SAG-AFTRA has said that members can work for other signatory Publicis Groupe ad agencies.
The agency, which has produced commercials for Audi, Absolut, Ikea, Samsung, and Virgin Media, said last week, “We do not expect the strike to have any noticeable impact on our company or any ongoing client work, especially as we have been a non-signatory to the SAG-AFTRA contract since November 2017. BBH remains focused on delivering high quality and innovative work to our clients. We also continue to value highly the creative talent we work with and remain committed to fair wages and working conditions.”
The strike comes with SAG-AFTRA having launched its official process to hammer out a contract proposal for its upcoming negotiations on the commercials contract, which represents over $1 billion in annual earnings for union members, by holding a series of “wages and working conditions” meetings for members. SAG-AFTRA’s current deal with the Joint Policy Committee, which represents advertisers and advertising agencies, expires on March 31. The two sides have not yet set a date for starting negotiations.
SAG-AFTRA also picketed the Los Angeles offices of BHH on Sept. 27 and drew 1,000 supporters to the event.