SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Commmercial Contract Proposal

SAG-AFTRA’s national board has approved the proposal for its commercials contract negotiations with the advertising industry.

The talks will begin Feb. 20 in New York City, six weeks ahead of the March 31 expiration of the current three-year deal. The union’s negotiating committee will be chaired by President Gabrielle Carteris and national executive director David White will serve as chief negotiator.

SAG-AFTRA leaders have hammered out the proposal through a required series of member meetings in recent months. The union, which represents about 160,000 performers, is giving no details as to the proposal, asserting that “as a matter of longstanding union practice,” negotiating committee members are not identified and noting that it will not comment further due to a mutually agreed upon news blackout with the industry.

The contract covers about $1 billion in annual revenues for performers. SAG-AFTRA has held more than two dozen demonstrations in recent months against New York ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which abandoned its union contract in September, asserting that the agreement is outdated and accusing SAG-AFTRA of being inflexible. SAG-AFTRA told its members not to work for BBH, which has produced commercials for Audi, Absolut, Ikea, Samsung, and Virgin Media.

The board also voted Saturday to renew its employment agreement with White, extending his contract for three years to Feb. 1, 2023. It said details of the agreement are confidential. The union’s required LM-2 filing in 2018 with the U.S. Department of Labor showed that White was paid $726,643 for the fiscal year ended April 30, 2018. SAG-AFTRA reported that it had $312.9 million in assets and $245.8 million in liabilities at that point.

White was general counsel from 2002 to 2006 for SAG and replaced became national executive director in 2009 when the board fired Doug Allen from the post. White was opposed by the self-styled progressives of the Membership First faction of elected leaders, but that group saw its clout diminished in the subsequent years.

White campaigned actively for a merger of SAG with AFTRA along with SAG President Ken Howard, asserting that the combined union would have more power and operate more effectively. White became the national executive director of SAG-AFTRA in 2012 when the members voted to combine the unions.

In early 2014, White’s name emerged as a candidate for a similar post with the National Basketball Players Assn. However, the players union opted select Washington, D.C. attorney Michelle Roberts for the post, and the SAG-AFTRA board extended White’s deal later that year to 2018. The deal was extended in 2016 to the year 2020.

Carteris said in a statement following the meeting, “I am thrilled that the national board overwhelmingly voted to ensure David’s executive expertise and stewardship of SAG-AFTRA’s operations will continue for another four years. It speaks to the strength and stability of this union and our forward vision.”

White also released a statement about the extension: “SAG-AFTRA is a truly extraordinary organization and I continue to be excited and energized by the opportunity to lead this operation. I look forward to continuing my partnership with our members, our elected leaders and the talented staff of this union. I want to thank President Carteris, the officers and the National Board for their confidence and giving me this opportunity to serve.”

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