“BBH is trying to walk out on its contractual obligations and we are taking a stand,” said President Gabrielle Carteris. “As union actors, we must hold the line against those attempting to undercut our collective value and our ability to sustain a career.”
Picketers included SAG-AFTRA secretary-treasurer and Los Angeles local president Jane Austin, Patrick Fabian, Frances Fisher, Kate Flannery, Spencer Garrett, Elliott Gould, Josh Groban, Sharon Lawrence, Kate Linder, Matt Letscher, Lisa Vidal, and JoBeth Williams.
BHH issued a response through a spokesperson: “BBH acknowledges SAG-AFTRA’s right to demonstrate. We continue to affirm our legal right to not renew our participation as a signatory to the SAG-AFTRA contract. We immensely value the creative talent we work with, and this decision does not change our commitment to fair wages and working conditions.”
The union instructed its 160,000 members on Sept. 20 not to accept any work for BBH, which has been signed to SAG-AFTRA’s commercials contracts since 1999. The strike came two weeks after BBH publicly announced that it had withdrawn from the contract, asserting that the agreement is outdated and accusing the union of being inflexible.
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.
The union posted several photos in a tweet about the event: