SAG-AFTRA has launched balloting for ratification of a successor deal on its master contract for feature films and primetime television work — with spirited campaigns on both sides of the issue.
The performers union, which reps 160,000 members, rolled out a video Thursday of President Gabrielle Carteris urging a “Yes” vote on the new deal and posted the referendum booklet on line with ballots due back July 22. The booklet includes a 500-word opposition section urging a “No” vote and endorsed by national board members Ed Asner, Jennifer Beals, Neve Campbell, Diane Ladd, Matthew Modine, Esai Morales, Patricia Richardson, Rob Schneider and Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
The SAG-AFTRA national board approved sending out the contract for ratification on June 29 by a vote of 67.6% to 32.4%. Members are receiving a postcard in the mail with instructions on how to vote.
Carteris chaired the negotiating committee and began the video by saying, “Well, it’s my pleasure to finally be able to talk about good news for a change, actually really good news. You know, even though most of our industry has been shut down for months, we’ve been hard at work in TV/Theatrical contract negotiations with the producers. Essentially, we were negotiating for our future. And we did it.”
She touted “huge” gains in wages, in health plan contributions and plans. The gains were similar to those achieved in the Directors Guild of America’s new master contract, which was ratified by members in April.
“In fact, this is the most lucrative deal we have ever negotiated. And it’s valued at $318 million over the three year term of the contract,” Carteris said. “That’s an extra $318 million in members’ pockets. But more importantly this deal, it sets up for our long-term future by securing a substantial 26% increase in fixed streaming residuals.”
She also said the deal includes more safety for performers, including a 48-hour notice provision for nudity and simulated sex.
The opposition noted that it has launched a web site at DissentingOpinion2020.com and asserted, “The phrase ‘historic gains’ doesn’t tell the full story. This contract enshrines historic losses and missed opportunities.”
“This deal was negotiated during an unprecedented global health and economic crisis,” the opponents said. “Our country has turned to performers for warmth, humor, and inspiration. The value of our services is growing, not shrinking. Even through the shared pain of this moment it’s our duty to negotiate with strength to fiercely protect your wages, residuals, health, safety, and the survival of our Pension and Health Plans.”
The opponents said the new contract will “destroy” syndication the decades-old fixed residual formula with a three-year loss of $70 million and an eight-year loss of $170 million. It asserted that 1.5% of the proposed 2% pension and health increase will be deducted from the wage increase and that there’s no protection for background actors from the use of digital doubles.
They also said that dropping the provision to require first-class travel for under 1,000 miles puts members at risk in the COVID era.
Three years ago, SAG-AFTRA members ratified the current deal as 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.