Entertainment Industry

Category: screen actors guild

SAG and AFTRA members give thumbs up to merger

Sag-and-aftra

Creating Hollywood's largest entertainment union, members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have voted overwhelmingly to combine into a single bargaining unit. 

In an resounding show of support, SAG members voted 82% in favor of the merger, while AFTRA members voted 86% in favor. That was well above the 60% threshold needed for the combination to take effect.

SAG represents 125,000 actors, extras and stunt performers in movies and television shows. AFTRA has about 70,000 members who are actors as well as singers, dancers, disc jockeys, sports announcers, comedians and broadcast journalists, among others. About 40,000 people hold membership in both labor groups.

The historic vote comes nearly two years after union leaders began discussions to merge in a bid to gain more leverage in contract negotiations with studios and to end a long history of jurisdictional disputes and feuding over negotiating strategy.

Under the plan, the new consolidated union will be called simply SAG-AFTRA. National officers, including the president and secretary-treasurer, would be elected directly by members. However, some other positions, such as an executive vice president, would be elected by delegates at a convention held every two years -- a concession to AFTRA's tradition of using conventions and delegates. SAG elects its officers directly by a vote of members.

Dues will increase for some members, including for current AFTRA-only members, and drop for others, including those who are already dual card holders. 

The results represent a victory for leaders of both unions, who campaigned heavily to join forces after a bitter dispute erupted in 2008. At that time, AFTRA suspended its longtime bargaining partnership with SAG, which lost its traditional dominance in prime-time television as producers steered most of their contracts for new shows to AFTRA. SAG President Ken Howard and his supporters were elected on a pledge to merge with AFTRA.

Two previous attempts at combining the unions failed in 1999 and 2003, when 58% of SAG members voted to endorse it, falling just short of the required 60%. AFTRA members voted 76% in favor of the combination.

A group of actors including Ed Harris, Martin Sheen and Ed Asner recently filed a lawsuit to block the latest referendum vote, arguing that the SAG board breached its fiduciary duties to conduct an actuarial impact study detailing the effects of the proposed merger on health and pension benefits for SAG members. But a federal judge earlier this week rejected their request for an injunction blocking the ballot count.

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-- Richard Verrier

Costly events target aspiring child actors

Bret Dawson hoped to be in commercials.

Since Hollywood's earliest days, families have come to Los Angeles to chase stardom for their children. In a departure from that tradition, companies are marketing the Hollywood dream in towns and cities across the U.S., offering children a chance to be discovered — for a price.

The talent businesses have thrived because the proliferation of children's TV programs has created a large pool of youngsters eager to become the next Miley Cyrus or Selena Gomez.

The companies blanket radio and TV stations with ads that use the names of Disney stars to draw children and their families to free auditions. Parents are then pressured to buy packages of acting workshops and other services that they're told will make their kids more appealing to talent agents and casting directors, according to court records and complaints filed with state attorneys general and the Better Business Bureau.

"I've talked to parents who've spent their children's college fund to make this dream a reality and have nothing to show for it," said Zino Macaluso, a national director of the Screen Actors Guild.

For more on the story, see today's article in the Los Angeles Times.

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-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Bret Dawson and his parents, Gina and Shawn, spent thousands at Pacific Modeling and Acting Academy. The family, shown in their San Diego home, hoped it would prepare Bret to be in commercials. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times.

SAG and AFTRA open up about merger plans

Sag-and-aftra

Hollywood's actors' unions are opening up about their proposed marriage agreement. The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists on Tuesday posted details of a merger package overwhelmingly approved by their respective boards last weekend.

Constitution-final-approved-120131-p1-small

The package includes a merger agreement, constitution and dues plan for what would be Hollywood's largest entertainment union, combining actors as well as singers, dancers, talk show hosts and broadcast journalists under a single roof.

Members of SAG and AFTRA will get to vote on the plan in a referendum to be held in the coming weeks. Merger ballots are scheduled to be mailed out on or about Feb. 27 are due back by March 30, according to a recent email sent to members of both unions. At least 60% of voters must approve the merger for it to be ratified.

Under the plan, national officers, including the president and secretary-treasurer, would be elected directly by members. However, some other positions, including that of an executive vice president, would be elected by delegates at a convention held every two years, a concession to AFTRA's tradition of using conventions and delegates. SAG elects its officers directly by a vote of members.

Dues will increase for some members, including for current AFTRA-only members, and drop for others, including those who are already dual card holders. The new union will be called simply SAG-AFTRA.

For more details on the agreement, here's the full plan: SAG/AFTRA merger package

RELATED:

SAG board votes to approve merger plan

SAG-AFTRA merger means some dues will rise, others fall

SAG, AFTRA craft merger plan

— Richard Verrier

SAG-AFTRA merger means some union dues will rise as others fall

Sag-and-aftra
The proposed merger between the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists will bring higher dues for some actors and lower dues for others, depending on which labor group they already belong to before the marriage.

SAG members will see as much as a 15% decrease in so-called working dues, which are calculated as a percentage of a member's earnings. AFTRA-only members will see their working dues increase by up to 6%, according to a board member who asked not to be identified because the plans are confidential.

Additionally, base dues -- the dues that actors pay for simply being a member of the union -- will increase substantially, to nearly $200 from about $120 a year. However, the nearly 50,000 members who already belong to both unions will see a decline in total fees after the merger, because they will be paying dues to one organization instead of two.

Currently, SAG members pay higher percentages and have higher caps on their incomes than their counterparts at AFTRA. The proposed dues change is intended to reduce the gap.

SAG has about 125,000 members while AFTRA claims 70,000 members. The proposed dues changes are part of a merger agreement reached last week and reviewed by board members from SAG and AFTRA on Sunday. The boards of SAG and AFTRA are scheduled to vote on the proposed merger of the unions next weekend.

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-- Richard Verrier

Actors unions to huddle for nine days of merger talks

Hollywood's two actors unions will begin nine days of intensive talks on Saturday toward merging their two organizations, in part to strengthen their clout at the bargaining table.

Representatives of the Group for One Union, which comprises elected officers from the Screen ActorsGuild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, will begin a series of meetings at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel to hash out a merger agreement that would include a proposed constitution and dues payments for a combined union.Ken howard SAG

The plan will be presented to the boards of SAG and AFTRA later this month. If the boards accept it, the proposed merger agreement would be sent to members for a vote. The merger would be ratified only if it was approved by at least a 60% vote margin. A merger referendum could be held as early as April.

SAG, the entertainment industry's largest union, represents about 125,000 actors, while AFTRA has 77,000 members, including not only actors but also broadcasters, dancers and talk show hosts. About 40,000 members belong to SAG and AFTRA.

Two previous attempts at a merger failed, most recently in 2003. But this time there is strong support on both sides. SAG and AFTRA want to avoid a repeat of the destabilizing turf war that erupted in 2008, when AFTRA suspended its longtime bargaining partnership with SAG and negotiated a separate prime-time TV contract with the studios. The split severely weakened SAG's bargaining position with the studios.

This marks the fifth and most important gathering for the so-called G-1 group since it was established this summer after nearly two years of negotiations between the leaders of both organizations.

Neither SAG nor AFTRA would comment on the proceedings, which are confidential. In a recent interview with The Times, however, SAG President Ken Howard said the sides had made considerable progress in talks and that he was optimistic an agreement would be reached by the end this month.

While the sides have reached agreement in some areas, such as how members and officers should be elected, several vexing matters have yet to be agreed upon. Among them: what to name the new union.

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-- Richard Verrier

Photo: Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard. Photo courtesy of Ken Howard.

SAG members earn more in movies and commercials, less in TV

Screen Actors Guild members were better off last year than in 2009, reporting overall higher earnings thanks to increases in movies and commercials, even as they reported less income from work on television shows, according to a guild survey.

SAG members reported $589 million in movie-related earnings, up 8% from the prior year. Earnings from commercials jumped 13% to $818 million, according to the Screen Actors Guild survey.

The higher earnings "reflect a rebound in production levels from the downturn of 2008-2009," Ray Rodriguez, deputy national executive director for contracts, said in a statement published in the union's magazine, where the findings were reported. Rodriguez also attributed the higher commercials earnings to contract gains negotiated in 2009.

TV earnings for SAG members, however, continued to slide, falling 8% last year to $565 million. TV earnings have fallen 24% since 2007, when SAG members reported income of $746 million.

SAG officials attributed the decline to a "loss of coverage." SAG, which once dominated prime-time TV, has ceded significant ground to its smaller sister union, the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, in recent years, in part because of the perception among networks and studios that the union was more stable and easier to deal with. SAG's loss of market share in prime-time television has helped to fuel a movement to merge the two unions, which has gathered steam this year.

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-- Richard Verrier

 

 

 

 

Actors unions start formally discussing merger

The Screen Actors Guild and its smaller sister union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, have begun formal discussions to merge their unions.

Committees approved by the respective boards of the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA to come up with a plan to combine the unions met for the first time this weekend at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md.

The AFTRA New Union Committee and the the SAG Merger Task Force established working groups to address various issues of concern raised by members, such as what dues they would have to pay in the new union, how it would be structured, and what effect the merger would have on their health and pension benefits.

The meetings were the first of several to be held this year by the merger committees, which were recently created by the boards of each union, which already have approved a mission statement for a consolidated union. The committees were given until January to come with a merger plan, including drafting a constitution and a dues policy.

Leaders of each union are backing the merger plans as a strategy to give them more bargaining clout with their employers and to avoid jurisdictional fights that have led to feuds in the past.

In a joint statement, AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon and Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard praised the unions’ inaugural meeting, saying: "We know the members of the successor union will be well served by their diligent and hard work during the months to come.”

AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, who addressed the groups Friday, offered words of support. “I encourage you to keep an open mind and base your decision not on any preconceived notions but on this measure alone: what is best for our members, our unions and our future,” he said. “Whatever your decision, the 12 million members of the AFL-CIO will support you.”

The weekend’s meetings were facilitated by Susan J. Schurman, a professor at Rutgers' School of Management and Labor Relations, and labor consultant Peter S. DiCicco. The next meeting of the full AFTRA and Screen Actors Guild Group for One Union is scheduled for Aug. 27–28 in New York.

-- Richard Verrier

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SAG board expected to proceed with AFTRA merger

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Extras: Read all about them in today's L.A. Times

Extras are trained to keep a low profile. It's their professional occupation. But the people who play the  the anonymous hotel clerks, courtroom jurors and store patrons in scores of movies, TV shows and commercials are now in the spotlight thanks to a recent action by local and state officials.

Last month, the Los Angeles city attorney's office and California labor commissioner took the unusual step of issuing a cease-and-desist letter to Central Casting in Burbank -- the largest company for extras -- ordering it to stop charging an upfront fee that they said violated state law. Similar warning letters were sent to 13 other L.A. casting companies.

The action stunned many at the casting companies who said they were unfairly targeted and that the fees were necessary to cover their costs. But the warning struck a chord for those in the extras community who have complained for years about being squeezed by fees for casting firms and job listing services at a time when work has grown increasingly scarce.

Read the full story in Friday's Los Angeles Times.

-- Richard Verrier

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L.A., state officials issue warning to casting companies on fees charged to extras

City and state officials warned more than a dozen casting companies -- including the largest in the entertainment industry -- that they are running afoul of state labor laws.

The Los Angeles city attorney's office and the California labor commissioner this week issued a cease-and-desist letter to Central Casting in Burbank, advising it to stop charging various fees to background actors -- better known as extras -- in violation of the state's labor laws.

Similar warning letters were sent out ot 13 other casting companies. Truheadshot2

An investigation by the city attorney office's found that Central Casting charged a $25 "photographic/electronic image" fee, regardless of whether the applicant actually received work, and that other casting companies collected fees ranging from $15 to $80.

Such fees violate a state labor law that bars talent-services companies from charging up-front fees for photo processing and other services in exchange for finding an individual work, authorities say. In a statement, Central Casting said it did not charge improper fees or violate state law. But, citing the government's concerns, the company said it would revise its policies and would suspend charges for photographic fees.

"The Labor Commissioner's office is committed to enforcing all of California's labor laws,'' Labor Commissioner Julie Su said in a statement. "This includes ensuring actors are not required to pay a fee which labor law prohibits."

The warning is the latest step by the city attorney's office to enforce the 2009 Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act, which took effect January 2010. The city attorney has filed criminal charges against several talent services companies for alleged violations of the state law.

"We're very pleased the city attorney and state labor commissioner have taken this action,  and we support them wholly in this effort,'' said Terri Becherer, director of the background actors department of the Screen Actors Guild.

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Photo: Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich. Photo courtesy of city attorney's office.

-- Richard Verrier

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Actors Guild takes big step toward merging with AFTRA


The Screen Actors Guild board of directors on Saturday moved significantly closer to merging with its smaller sister union, the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

The board unanimously approved a mission statement for a consolidated union and agreed to create a task force that would work with AFTRA to develop a merger plan, including drafting a constitution and dues policy by January. AFTRA's board is expected to take similar action at meeting on May 14.Sag

The proposed union would represent about 140,000 actors as well news broadcasters, recording artists, dancers and other performers.

"The message from SAG and AFTRA members across the country has been clear: They want this done as soon as possible, " SAG President Ken Howard said in a statement.

"Not only will the creation of one union increase our bargaining leverage, it will allow us to pool our resources to give members the protection they need by actively enforcing contracts and organizing new work," SAG National Secretary Treasurer Amy Aquino said in a statement.

Despite a growing consensus among union leaders that merging is necessary to give the unions more bargaining clout and avoid turf battles,  the sides will have to wrestle with a number of tough issues before the marriage can occur sometime early next year. For more details, see today's business story in the Los Angeles Times.

--Richard Verrier

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