Today’s statements from SAG and AFTRA about this weekend’s split. (Splitsville Over TV Soap: Why AFTRA Now Refuses To Jointly Negotiate With SAG):

From: SAG President Alan Rosenberg
Date: March 30, 2008 8:08:40 PM PDT
To: SAG Members
Subject: AFTRA ENDED JOINT BARGAINING RELATIONSHIP WITH SAG

Dear Screen Actors Guild members,

You will hear many things over the next few days about AFTRA’s decision to effectively terminate our Phase One joint bargaining relationship. We have been jointly bargaining several contracts with AFTRA since 1981 and the AFTRA board voted yesterday to end that relationship (under the Phase One Agreement) and forge ahead without SAG.

AFTRA HAS THREE TELEVISION SHOWS UNDER THIS CONTRACT AND THEY DON’T COVER MOTION PICTURES.

As your President, I feel it is important that you have the facts.

AFTRA leaders claim…That SAG attempted to “raid” its jurisdiction and to “campaign” to help The Bold & The Beautiful daytime drama actors decertify from AFTRA.

FACT: Actors from the show, who are also SAG members, asked to meet with us. We heard their complaints of extreme dissatisfaction with AFTRA, AND DIRECTED THEM TO TALK WITH AFTRA. We did not have a campaign of any kind.

AFTRA leaders claim… The Bold & The Beautiful incident was “the last straw,” but waited more than two weeks to raise the issue. Instead, the day before the joint SAG/AFTRA board meeting, they alerted the press (not SAG) and accused us of poaching. Two days earlier, they had participated in our two-day national joint Wages & Working conditions meeting where members of both unions VOTED UNANIMOUSLY to approve the proposal package. Didn’t the “last straw” matter then?

AFTRA never has stated how it plans to come to the aid of the B &B actors. They are too busy blaming us for the problem. Institution first, members last.

FACT: SAG IS NOT INVOLVED IN ANY WAY IN ORGANIZING DAYTIME DRAMA ACTORS. While we have great respect for daytime actors, this is AFTRA’s area. In fact, the SAG national board passed a motion Saturday morning to assure AFTRA (as AFTRA requested) that SAG will abide by the AFL CIO rules regulating raiding.

FACT: Despite this expression of good faith and reassurance from SAG, AFTRA leaders voted to “suspend” Phase One and go it alone. They marched into our board meeting, said they would not be bargaining jointly, and left. The joint board meeting to approve the proposal package for joint bargaining never even took place.

AFTRA leaders claim …SAG has undertaken a campaign to discredit them.

FACT: AFTRA bargained cable deals at rates lower than SAG minimums and waived residuals. They fully admit this and are now getting backlash from members who are wondering where their residuals went. AFTRA must be accountable for granting these waivers to the contracts we have fought hard to achieve. Again, how is this problem SAG’s fault? Will they now go bargain these sub-standard contracts for primetime network/pay TV programs and lower the bar for all SAG actors in the process?

AFTRA claims …that SAG Hollywood leaders are looking for a strike.

FACT: Not true. Nobody wants a strike, especially after the 100 day WGA strike. Elected SAG leaders across the country want to be strong on your behalf at the bargaining table. YOU elected your leadership. You elected me to achieve the best possible wages and working conditions. While the DGA and WGA made deals, we are not directors or writers. We are actors, and actors have different issues that are not in the DGA and WGA deals.

What’s next?

We will begin negotiations. We believe the AMPTP will be eager to do so, especially since motion picture start dates are critical. Your national board approved the proposal package yesterday that so many members contributed to during our W & W process. We are ready to negotiate.

Members are our first priority, not the institution. As your president, I vow to continue to work hard to improve the lives of all actors and their families. You deserve nothing less.

American Federation of Television and Radio Artists NEWS RELEASE

March 30, 2008
– AFTRA National Board Overwhelmingly Approves to Suspend Phase One Joint Bargaining with SAG and Makes Plan to Negotiate Primetime TV Contract on Its Own

– Board also unanimously approved the AFTRA Network Television Code and the AFTRA Sound Recordings Code, and adopted procedures for membership ratification

LOS ANGELES — The National Board of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists — a national union of more than more 70,000 performers, journalists, broadcasters, recording artists, and other talent working in the entertainment and news media — overwhelmingly voted Saturday in favor of suspending the joint bargaining process under the Phase One agreement with the Screen Actors Guild and plans to negotiate the Primetime TV contract with employers on its own.

“AFTRA’s leadership believes that our union must devote its energies first and foremost to working on behalf of performers,” said Roberta Reardon, National President of AFTRA. “During the past year, AFTRA has fought hard and expended an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources to maintain the integrity of our Phase One joint bargaining process with Screen Actors Guild so we could sit across the table from the industry with total and unequivocal unity. Unfortunately, SAG leadership has made this impossible.

“For the past year, SAG leadership in Hollywood has engaged in a relentless campaign of disinformation and disparagement, culminating in a recent attempt to decertify an AFTRA daytime soap opera. As a result of this continued and ongoing behavior by SAG leadership, which at its core harms all working performers and the labor movement, we find ourselves unable to have confidence in their ability to live up to the principles of partnership and union solidarity. AFTRA believes it must now devote its full energies to working on behalf of performers, and not wasting time assessing whether our partner is being honest with us.

“The board’s approval of a suspension of Phase One — not a termination — was mindful of the fact that there many among SAG’s leadership that are as troubled by the events that have led us to this point as we are. We are hopeful that someday, the historic trust between these two organizations can be rebuilt — in the best interests of all performers,” said Reardon.

Given the suspension of joint bargaining with SAG, the AFTRA National Board cancelled the joint meeting with the SAG board and instead continued its special session.

After a review of the recommendations from the AFTRA-SAG Joint Wages and Working Conditions Committee, the National Board unanimously approved the proposals en banc and without amendment to serve as the official AFTRA proposal package for negotiations with employers on the AFTRA Exhibit A to the Network Code that covers primetime dramatic programming. The National Board also approved the Negotiating Committee appointed by AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon, with Los Angeles actor and AFTRA National Treasurer Matt Kimbrough as chair.

The AFTRA National Board also approved tentative agreements reached with employers for the AFTRA Network Television Code and the AFTRA Sound Recordings Code and adopted procedures for membership ratification of the contracts.

In unanimously approving the tentative agreement with the four major television networks and producers on the AFTRA Network TV Code, the National Board noted that the new agreement contains solid increases in wage rates for all categories, increased contributions for the AFTRA Health and Retirement plan, and addresses discrete issues affecting every category of performer. In addition, the agreement preserves significant principles which are a hallmark of AFTRA contracts — such as universal coverage of
background performers and contract security for daytime serial contract players.

“This agreement is a major milestone for AFTRA as substantial gains in wages and working conditions for performers were successfully achieved,” said Reardon, who also served as chair of the Network Code Negotiating Committee. “This contract is extraordinary for performers and made significant progress on many fronts, including importantly new media jurisdiction and compensation.”

The AFTRA Network TV Code covers actors and all on-camera and off-camera talent on all forms of television programming: syndicated dramas, daytime serials, game shows, talk shows, variety and musical programs, news, sports, reality shows, and promotional announcements. Programs covered by the Code include diverse programs such as “Good Morning America,” “20/20,” “American Idol,” “The View,” “The Tonight Show,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Oprah,” “The Price is Right,” “Deal or No Deal,” “Days of Our Lives,” “The Bold and the Beautiful,” All My Children, “Cake,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Entertainment Tonight,” and “Survivor.”

The National Board voted to recommend the agreement in a mail referendum ballot to the entire AFTRA membership.

The National Board also unanimously approved the tentative agreement for the AFTRA Sound Recordings Code — the national contract with the recording industry, which covers royalty artists and session singers who work with the more than 1,200 recording companies, including the four major labels — EMI, Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner — and most of their subsidiary labels. In addition to popular music in all genres, the Sound Recordings Code covers classical recordings, Broadway cast albums, Latin recordings, and spoken word recordings, including audio books.

“This is a breakthrough agreement for AFTRA members,” said Randall Himes, AFTRA Assistant National Executive Director for Sound Recordings and co-lead negotiator for AFTRA. “The members of the AFTRA negotiating committee — session and royalty singers, rap artists, and other performers across all fields of recorded music from pop and hip-hop to Latin and country — worked diligently to achieve this contract for their fellow AFTRA members. The challenge of negotiating while the industry is confronting both a digital transition and rampant piracy underscores the remarkable work of the committee members in keeping their focus.”

Highlights of the agreement include wage increases for session performers,improvements in health and retirement coverage for royalty artists, and a new formula for compensation on digital downloads.

In recommending approval of the tentative agreement, the National Board determined that any AFTRA member in good standing who had earnings from the Sound Recordings Code since July 1, 2002, will be eligible to vote on the contract.

In other action:

– Responding to the petition from more than 1,400 performers to define “affected members” for voting on contracts, the National Board authorized National President Roberta Reardon to appoint a committee, to be confirmed by the Administrative Committee, to review the so-called “Working Actors Voice” proposal and report recommendations to the National Board.

– Recognizing the work needed to restructure the AFTRA Non-Broadcast/Industrial Code and to reorganize members and signatory employers, the National Board granted authority to the AFTRA Non-Broadcast/Industrial Steering Committee to seek an extension to the contract that expires April 30, 2008.

The AFTRA National Board is next scheduled to meet in a face-to-face plenary session in Los Angeles on June 6 and 7.

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