Jobs and earnings for SAG-AFTRA members have “rebounded and reached a new high in the first months of 2021, with streaming and commercials showing significant growth,” the union said Saturday night following an all-day meeting of its national board of directors.
“We’re very pleased that the Covid safety protocols that we worked so hard with our sister unions to complete have enabled the industry to rebound,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s national executive director. “It also emphasizes the importance of remaining vigilant and not becoming complacent about the virus because it is those very protections that will allow our members to continue to work in the pandemic environment.”
The board received a report on the union’s finances, which show the union to be in sound financial condition despite a $14 million downturn in membership dues from a year ago.
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The board also received a report from the union’s National Task Force Ensuring Fair and Equitable Hiring Practices Within the Stunt Community, which recommended the creation of a database of qualified diverse stunt performers, defining compliance protocols for stunt coordinators, and proposing specific initiatives around the training, mentoring and networking of stunt performers.
“SAG-AFTRA is committed to the fight to advance diversity, equity and inclusion principles as evidenced by the work of our Stunt Diversity Task Force and other initiatives,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris.
In her report to the board, Carteris opened with a remembrance of members and staff who have died since the last national board meeting. The board and staff also paid tribute to Cedric Jackson, national director of stunts & safety, who died earlier this month.
Carteris also reported on the updated Covid-19 Return to Work Agreement and reviewed the union’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and its advancements in technological efficiencies, member service and engagement. Carteris, who is not seeking re-election, said “It’s been a true honor to serve as your president and I thank the members and staff for their many contributions.”
In his report to the board, Crabtree-Ireland provided an update on the union’s organizing initiatives and contract negotiations including dozens of broadcast station negotiations, SAG-AFTRA’s Sound Recordings Code, and its agreement with Telemundo Television Studios for Spanish-language television production. He also reported on various contract enforcement initiatives and provided a detailed report on the recently revised Return to Work Agreement.
He also praised the accomplishments of the union’s Communications and Marketing team under the leadership of Pamela Greenwalt, chief communications and marketing officer, noting that SAG-AFTRA’s reach “continues to expand and member engagement is strong.”
In the first six months of the year, the President’s Task Force on Education, Outreach and Engagement hosted weekly events totaling more than 30 hours of programming. The streams were viewed by nearly 10,000 people during the live presentations and had more than 40,000 views on the SAG-AFTRA YouTube channel. Crabtree-Ireland also reported that overall video views during the first half of 2021 totaled more than 144,000. The union’s podcast also continues to be well received, chalking up more than 24,500 unique downloads over the same period.
Between January 1 and July 15, 2021, the sagaftra.org website had more than 1.5 million users, of which 1.4 million were unique users. All users during that time accounted for more than 18 million page views, including more than 8 million unique views.
Crabtree-Ireland introduced and congratulated three staff members who were recently appointed to the union’s executive leadership team: General Counsel Jeffrey Bennett, Chief Governance and Equity & Inclusion Officer Michelle Bennett and Chief Administrative Officer & Executive Counsel Will Bensussen.
Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez presented the proposal package for the Network Code negotiations, which will be negotiated in late September and October. The Network Code covers syndicated and non-primetime dramatic programs, daytime serials, promotional announcements, variety, quiz, game, reality, talk, news and sports, and other non-dramatic programs. The proposal package is confidential and will not be released. Rodriguez will serve as the union’s lead negotiator, as he has for the prior two contract cycles.
The board also unanimously approved an update to the 2001 Dubbing Agreement. In addition to multiple improvements and a simplified compensation structure, this agreement represents the first wage increase for members under this agreement since 2003. The new rates and structure of this agreement are built on three years of community organizing and performer engagement. This is also the first time in this industry where it will be a contractual requirement that performers be notified of possible vocal stress, be included in on-screen credits, and be compensated for use of their home studio post-Covid.