Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 2014 National Board Report (unofficial)

You are the Union
By Art Lynch
National Board Director
Art Lynch as "Big Frank" in Spiltsville"

We will have a raise in pay, unified contracts and the stronger national union merger promised in the first ever theatrical / TV contract as a new union; SAG-AFTRA.
It is up to us as members to build local work, wean non-union low budget producers off the anti-union bottle to grow up and use qualified professional union talent in our market, and to continue to let Hollywood know how much we value and want to see the return of an office and a local executive with boots on the ground in Nevada.
We have lost a great deal over the past two years, a price paid for the solidarity of a stronger national union. We need to let that union know that we are part of the reason it exist and are a vital part of its heart, blood and muscle system.

We are the union.
While we do not have the frequent events and meeting we have had under better financial times for our union, there has been ample work on films and television to begin to make up for what we lost during the recession. Another hit movie at the box office that was filmed here will do nothing but help future location production for our city, our state and our membership.

I have been honored to work under SAG Contract in numerous roles over the past year and a half, including a lead in an ultra low budget film. While listed, I found myself too large a man (physically) or too old for the many calls that went out for background at times when I was available for work, but those too will come.

New Contract Agreement Brings Gains

“Unifying the legacy SAG and AFTRA contracts was essential and I am very pleased that we were able to achieve that,” SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard announced on Thursday, “As important, we have established an industry-wide, basic cable agreement – something we have wanted for two decades. We’ve also secured a very competitive wage package for members and a large bump in our pension, health and retirement contributions.”

We have a raise coming...Minimums will see a 2.5% wage gain in the first year, followed by 3% annual wage increases in the next two years. 

 “The deal also calls for improved terms and conditions and full television rate minimums for productions made for subscription video on demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and similar platforms.”

I will not see the actual proposed contract in its entirety, but I was a part of the process and an active part on portions of our proposal and negotiations. I will not see entire documents until I am seated at the SAG-AFTRA National Board meetings on next weekend.

If we approve a “do pass” on the contract, it will be up to you as members to vote the contract.

To the best of my knowledge we will see gains for Nevada, but no expansion of our background zone. The contract, other then the income it will generate for the union, has nothing to do directly with our key Nevada issues of the return of an office and a local executive.

But there is good news for our members in Nevada and anywhere else there is a background talent zone, a raise.

 “We gained outsized wage increases of 5% per year over the three-year term for background performers on the CW and for stand-ins,” Ken Howard reports.
Aside from the gains for CW performers and the promise to support a merger of the pension and health plans, the agreement largely mirrored the gains achieved by the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America in their new master contracts earlier this year.
That included an increase to the rate paid to performers for streaming product, a reduction in the free streaming window from 17 days to 7 days, and improved residuals formulas. If they want viewers to enjoy what we all have come to expect, long time exposure to their shows, then will have to compensate us for the extended run never intended in the historic one time air contracts (before DVR’s, Hulu and other services existed).
The new contract replaces the separate SAG and AFTRA contracts that have remained in effect since the 2012 merger.
Talks and contract details are always confidential until after you, the membership, has agreed to ratify the contract. That included a news blackout when negotiations launched May 4 at AMPTP headquarters in Sherman Oaks. The initial plans called for concluding the talks on June 13 but the complications of unifying the separate contracts and extracting a pledge from the AMPTP to assist on merging the pension and health plans made it necessary to continue negotiations for another three weeks.
We are merging two very different cultures, ways of doing things and even business models and methods and that takes years and hard work by members of both sides, and agreements with management, the government and other bodies (as needed). We have come a long way in two short years.
National SAG-AFTRA President Howard chaired the union’s negotiating committee and National Executive Director David White has been SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator. As reported in the media, White told the national board in February that he was being recruited as a candidate as the national exec director of the National Basketball Players Association but insisted that the union would not be damaged were he to depart. If offered that job he will take the offer seriously, as one of his passions as an African-American attorney is using the power and profile of unions to set solid and equitable role models and help advance unions while helping the youth and general public of America. He sees the NBA is a way to advance the union principles in a high profile way.
Variety reports that the NBPA has yet to decide on a new executive director. The SAG-AFTRA negotiations started a month after leaders of the WGA reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year master contract, which was easily ratified and went into effect May 1. The DGA’s successor deal went into effect on Tuesday.
The AMPTP issued a statement after the union put out its message:
“We are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with SAG-AFTRA for theatrical, television and new media production. This deal memorializes our partnership with the new union as we worked together to forge a new unified television agreement. The entire industry gains the assurance of a third and final agreement with the above-the-line unions. We congratulate SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard, National Executive Director David White, Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez and all of the members of the SAG-AFTRA Bargaining Committee on a successful negotiation.”
If you call me after next weekend, I will be honest on my views of the contract as presented July 11t and 12th.
Happy Fourth of July

I hope you had a safe and joyful celebration of out nation on July 4th.

One small event of the weekend opened my eyes to my SAG experience and the role way we operate as a union and a government.

Twenty years on the National Board of Screen Actors Guild, including two failed and finally a successful merger with AFTRA, have changed how I watch "1776" the musical (1972).

Funny, or maybe not, how committees to do this and that, task forces, subcommittees, votes to postpone, votes to require unobtainable quorum levels and even a three straight day meeting without break for sleep or even to refresh ourselves with fresh clothing and a shower...

It all is there in this film’s depiction of what John Adams faced with the Continental Congress

You may know that I earned a PhD in 2012, and have been teaching film, television, media and acting on a regular basis. I see tremendous talent, most of it untapped, among SAG-AFTRA talent and those who should be encouraged and welcomed into our union

I have been and will continue to use my education and experience to represent all of us in the complexities and politics of the SAG-AFTRA National Board.

Pride and responsibility

When I joined Screen Actors Guild many years ago, I did it with pride and with the knowledge that I was closing the door on a lucrative non-union income as an actor, voice artist and background talent. It cost me more than the initiation fee, but being from a proud union family going back generations, I did it with pride. I felt the same way with the Screen Extras Guild and AFTRA.

Joining and sticking to Rule One is even more difficult given that we live in a right-to-work state. We all make sacrifices by sticking to our beliefs and proudly being union. But it is worth the price. By sticking to our guns, we make it possible for the Guild to maintain our level of union work, and over time to grow new work.

We need to organize this marketplace. It takes all of you, as members, for us to be successful and end the flow of union work to non-union talent. We have no direct paid executive, only someone to help in emergencies or contract infractions out of Denver. We no longer have an office.

The office and the staff are you, in a very big way.

All of us, as members, need to encourage all qualified pre-union talent to join our ranks. If we do not, then the qualified Taft-Hartley pool will grow instead and make it increasingly difficult for our union to organize union work for all of us, as members.

We, as members of Screen Actors Guild in a “right-to-work for less and be terminated at will” state, are at the forefront of the battle for unionism in our country. We are the front line troops who need to stand firm, proud to sell the benefits of being union to all those around us.

Thank you for being a part of that fight.

Be helpful in a pro-union way, not confrontational
When it is time for confrontation, or our rights and pay are at stake, we have paid staff in Los Angeles, New York City, Denver and elsewhere who will come in to be our champions. They are trained in labor law, know how to build relationships with employers, and have the major business and legal muscle of the union behind them.

You can and should sell the benefits and, above all, show your talent!

No matter what they say you can audition for non-union projects…and once you have won the over you must have a union contract to do the work. Be honest and upfront as you audition; do not hide your union membership.

You may talk with and get to know non-union talent, directors, producers and companies and create a very positive and talented perspective of who we are as a talent.

You may call upon union staff for support when you need it.

Producers pay your or your work for experience and tape until you have enough of both.

You may take part in workshops, pay for demo reel production, pay for headshots and other business tools and look upon it as the opportunity to learn and grow and invest in yourself. But never pay to audition or pay to be in a production.

Just remember that marketing people everywhere will break rules because they do not know better. So instead of confronting them, suggest the reconsider how they market their product and the value of their services to talent who also believe in professionalism, their union and the need to protect others from being perceived as being “ripped off”. In other words, help them to provide their services in ways that so not put up red flags or take undue advantage of talent.

You would be surprised what you can attract with a little bit of sugar.

On classes or any service, audit is my advice and do not look at the video as part of the package, just something you may want to do for experience and tape.

Full disclosure, I teach at one local company and have my own company offering services but not casting or employment for actors. My primary income is from teaching college and professionals, and my primary profession remains, as always, acting.

Never pay to audition, or to be in cast...even as a producer yourself. If you are a producer you want the best talent and if you honestly think it is you, after seeing a shrink, then cast yourself.

Change and growth.

This is a new union, with a new structure that is still being refined, adjusted and altered to meet the needs of the membership, of all of us.

We are now two years into a new union. The union is not SAG or AFTRA, but a hybrid tailored to meet the needs of the new world of merging media and technologies. We are entering our first commercial negotiations as a new union, and have already gained valuable ground in the areas of commercials music video, dance and organizing. We are set to meet the goals of unifying contracts, with a raise and expansion of jurisdiction under the Theatrical/TV and related contracts.  

The future will take work, by all of us, in ways that SAG along did not demand.

The new union has elements of both SAG and AFTRA.

As we were a SAG “only” Legacy Branch, much of the structure and policies are new to Nevada.

Our voices are being heard.

Nevada remains strong in its voice and position at the national level, on the board, on the president’s caucus, on committees and in the dedication of our staff. Our voice and our experience is seen and heard.

We should be proud of our Branch in our significant percentage of turnout at membership meetings, in our strong and ongoing conservatory, and in how we make our voices and needs heard at the local and national level.

We're moving forward aggressively to continue negotiations with management on every contract that will shape the future of how labor and our rapidly changing industry interact.

As co-chair of the National New Technologies Committee and past co-chair of Communications, I have worked with members from across the country in focusing on how technology is rapidly changing the way we practice our craft, how and where our work is seen, and how best to assure that we not only have work in the future, but increased opportunities to earn income doing what we love to do. We need to be ready for product placement, click and point advertising during dramatic television programs, implied or direct endorsement during the course of a program, distribution by phones and iPad, and the potential of finding a gross ratings point system for compensation.

SAG-AFTRA members give to our fellow performers and to our communities. We tend to be active in many areas and on many issues. It is important we continue to put some of our energy, our talents and our experience into local committees and in working for our fellow performers. The local legislative and organizing committees are seeking active membership to reach out and make a difference.

The battle for unions.

SAG-AFTRA is a union. Many want to pretend otherwise, but look into history and you will see that both unions, who merged earlier this year, were begun as just that, unions. We have over 80 years of history of being a part of and standing up for the rights of all workers.

Whenever non-union, pre-union on “SAG eligible” talent works they are taking away from the pockets of and food on the table of union performers. Since they can work both union and non-union, they can earn union pay and benefits under hard fought union contracts while supporting potential employers who use the available “trained talent pool” as an excuse to not use SAG-AFTRA members.

Right to Work is Theft

As one columnist put it, “Right-to-Work is theft.” Can I walk into your country club and use all the services without paying, while you as a member have to pay for that membership and those services. Non-union talent can work without having to join the union, gaining all the benefits we have earned over the years. Can I get a lawyer or doctor who does non-union commercials to give me their services for less than they claim they are worth? How long would that doctor, lawyer or country club stay in business if they gave it all away for free?

In a right to work state non-union talent does not have to pay initiation or dues to gain the full benefits of union work.

As members of the largest entertainment union in the world, you are a part of this battle whether you like it or not. Your future income and that of all talent is at stake.

Support politicians who will vote against Right-to-work. Get active in AFL-CIO and other battles to undo this unfair legislation. Turn down non-union work. Report members who work “off the card.” Let your voice be heard,

It’s our union.

And unions need our help.

Your voice is needed.

Many changes have led to concerns.

Smaller national committees now called task forces, means far less representation from Nevada and other locals. Nevada has been traditionally active and strong at the national level through our activities on national committees.

All SAG-AFTRA national committees are active. Their number has been reduced and we no longer has guaranteed representation as a local outside of LA and NYC,  but thanks to my efforts and those of Nevada President Barbara Grant, our representation and voice on committees remains strong, stronger than most small locals.

There is no position on a national level, other than being alternates to the national board of directors in most local constitutions, for the presidents of locals. It may take action from Convention delegates to return local president so the position they held within the Legacy Screen Actors Guild.

The loss of the Regional Branch Division as a division of Screen Actors Guild’s board has led to the loss of a direct government voice for the elected leadership from the branches. We now serve as a committee of locals that can advise instead of initiate policy and directly influence votes. Board members remain members of the national body when it meets, limited by agenda and the cost effective use of the limited time the board is in session. This will be an issue addressed at convention by delegates from the smaller locals.

One is the power of the National Executive Committee, which handles the day-to-day business and decision making of the Guild. While informed at quarterly meetings, and given, on paper, the ability to overturn the NEC, the reality is that by the time we review it policies, procedures and the impact of decisions are already in place. Some board members, and many running for delegates in other locals, would like changes in this are of constitutional distribution of powers.

The ability of the membership of locals to have greater control over their own budgets, members’ services and policies will be an issue at the convention as well.

Staff has been and is continuing to be reorganized to provide increased services within the budget of the new union, under a single National Executive Director, David White. We felt the pain of the reorganization when our office and executive positions, along with at least 12 other locals, were eliminated in favor of a new cost driven service model.

My concern is that this model does not take into account how diverse, different in contract use and need, and executive dependant locals may be. We have lost a great deal and as I wrote above, it is up to you and members, to step forward, as individuals, to take up the slack.

The first steps.

Dancers won the first major victory of the new SAG-AFTRA, as a music video contract now guarantees them fair pay, water, seating, shelter and other basics actors take for granted. It was the dancers themselves that drove the contract, using flash mobs, dance-ins and other high profile events, attracting both member and media attention to their cause. I was proud to vote, on your behalf, for the new Music Video Contract.
We earned gains in the lucrative Commercial Contract and are studying new models to deal with how commercials on television, radio, the internet and other distribution systems are changing the way and frequency that our talents are used.

Meanwhile, the board voted to encouraged the pension and health plans of both AFTRA and SAG to provide reciprocity and move closer to a potential merger of the plans. The propoed Theatrical-TV contract makes great inroads in this are. The plans are governed by members of the former legacy unions and management and carry strong financial and fiduciary responsibilities to those who are currently served by those plans.

Meetings of the first elected National Board (the interim board was made up of both the SAG and AFTRA board members) have been far more civil than previous meetings, but involved a great deal of compromise and understanding as conflicting cultures merge.
Last year you elected me to serve in your best interests in a four year term on the new board. Thank you for the honor. As always it takes a team. Good friends ran against each other in last year’s election and some harsh words were traded. 

I would like to remind you that every candidate or every office on the local or national board deserves your respect or stepping up to spend many hours of unpaid service in your name and for your local. 

Most local board positions, including president, will be up for election next fall. Take some time to consider service to your union in an elected or committee positions.

We represent the state of Nevada, with all of its grandeur, locations and benefits for filmmakers..

SAG-AFTRA members give back to their communities and fellow performers.

As a member of the National Honors and Tributes Committee (or HATS), I was involved in the process of selecting the Life Achievement Award winner. This was my sixth year participating in a process of looking at members who have excelled as performers, have contributed to the entertainment community, work tirelessly for others both inside and outside the craft and believe in the potential of all individuals. 

What I can share is that there is no shortage of heart among SAG-AFTRA members, both celebrities and those who prefer to be known as “working actors.” The decision is a difficult one filled with research, discussions, ballots, debate and, finally, consensus.
Let Nevada President Barbara Grant know you are interested in keeping our Branch strong and a leader among the locals.

SAG-AFTRA online.

The address to remember and use frequently is
Both the SAG and the AFTRA websites remain active for members information and contracts. Meanwhile the new SAG-AFTRA site provides information on the new union and will expand as the contracts merge and the organization continues its process of morphing into the the industries largest entertainment union.
There are constant event, news and services updates to discover as well as history, basic rules, reports and features stories to uncover.

SAGINDIE, the SAG Foundation and other sites remain active as a resource for members and producers alike.
We live in an age where informational, in the form of videos, audio, web and print, are at our fingertips. SAG-AFTRA is no exception.

Explore and use these sites.

You will find you will be glad you did!

The Future
We face a bright future, going into each contract as one union instead of two.

We bring the strength of the largest union in the industry, made up of a wide range of professionals in multiple areas of this increasingly monolithic industry.

We join others in fighting the strong anti-union forces gaining strength and eroding the ability of all of us to organize to earn fair wages, safe working conditions and strong futures doing what we are skilled at and love doing.

We are prepared for the growing power on the other side of the negotiating table, the merging of technologies, the change and growth of where and how we work and how we earn our income as actors and performers.

We are SAG-AFTRA, the union for the future.
Be proud and join me in being thankful this holiday season that we finally have joined into one unified force for all members, and for all future performers.


Art Lynch
National Board Director, Nevada

-Art Lynch
National Board Director
(702) 454-1067

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