7.08.2014

The SAG-AFTRA Deal, Weak Unions & Ascendant Corporations


In looking at analysis for the the new SAG-AFTRA deal, I was struck by how much the story reflects the imbalance between unions and corporations in the 21st century.  Regarding the SAG-AFTRA deal, Jonathan Handel reported at THR:

The new deal reached just after midnight Friday [July 4, 2014] by SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP (representing studios and producers) achieved several key union goals: it unifies the legacy SAG and AFTRA television agreements, incorporates basic cable into an industry-wide agreement for the first time and includes wage increases and new media improvements similar to those obtained by the DGA and WGA. 
Television is at the heart of the deal, and The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the television provisions in the new unified agreement are based on legacy SAG rather than AFTRA provisions. That means that the basic cable terms will reflect the “Sanchez” residuals formula used in the SAG, DGA and WGA agreements, rather than the AFTRA “exhibition day” approach that frequently paid lower residuals or none at all.  
It also likely means that primetime minimums in the new agreement will be based on the legacy SAG wage rates, not the slightly higher legacy AFTRA rates. The difference is about 3.5 percent and stems from SAG’s delay in reaching a deal back in the 2007-2008 negotiating cycle, a time of political turmoil within the union. AFTRA achieved and ratified a contract in summer 2008, while SAG didn’t reach an agreement until almost a year later, causing it to miss one annual wage increase. 
But Nikki Finke views the deal with disgust and disagrees that union 'goals' were met:

The SAG-AFTRA negotiators failed big-time. Because primetime minimums in the new agreement will be based on the legacy lower SAG wage rates, not the higher legacy AFTRA rates. I had to laugh when The Hollywood Reporter’s Jonathan Handel tried to blame this not on the current SAG-AFTRA negotiaters but on the old SAG bargainers from back in 2007-2008. What a crock! 
The only good thing about this new configurement is that the basic cable terms will reflect the residuals formula used in the SAG, DGA and WGA agreements, rather than AFTRA’s which frequently paid lower residuals or none at all. But considering how much the AMPTP has undercut residuals in recent years, there’s almost no difference. And, come to think of it, when was the last time the terms ‘New Media’ and ‘increases’ were uttered in the same sentence during guild talks? 
While Handel describes the negotiations as "hardfought," Finke disagrees:
Do you remember how, during the merger campaign, SAG and AFTRA leadership promised they’d work with the DGA and WGA to bargain the bejesus out of the AMPTP this negotiating year? Never happened. And probably never will.  
Because if ever there were a time for showbiz unions to stand together in solidarity, it was 2014. Just how many ways is the Big Media cartel screwing the Hollywood guilds right now anyway. The sense of panic among actors, writers, directors and below-the-liners is palpable in Hollywood as more and more are not working and in danger of losing eligibility for all-important health benefits. Nor is this a byproduct of a disastrous economy, because the studios, networks and corporations who own them are doing very very well right now.  
...This is worth mentioning because on Friday the largest of the Hollywood guilds, SAG-AFTRA followed the WGA and the always employer-compliant DGA in announcing that its negotiators reached a new 3-year pact with the studios and networks. All three guilds are getting the same annual minimum increases: 2.5% the first year, and 3% in years two and three, plus an 0.5% increase in the Alliance Of Motion Picture And Television Producers’ contribution to the Pension Fund effective right away.
Frankly, that sucks. Did I mention that the current inflation rate jumped to 2.13% in May?
Here’s what also sucks for SAG-AFTRA: the basic rates. Remember, this was the first film and TV contract which the merged union bargained. Before the negotiations, the leadership’s stated goal was to combine the 2 separate TV contracts with the networks/studios and bring SAG’s basic rates up 3.5% to match AFTRA’s. “We certainly don’t want to lower AFTRA’s to SAG’s," a SAG-AFTRA official claimed.
Well that’s exactly what happened, folks. 
And it happened because the unions don't have the leverage they once used to have for a host of business, legal and political reasons and corporations now have inordinate amounts of power for a host of business, legal and political reasons.
 
The new deal reached just after midnight Friday by SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP (representing studios and producers) achieved several key union goals: it unifies the legacy SAG and AFTRA television agreements, incorporates basic cable into an industry-wide agreement for the first time and includes wage increases and new media improvements similar to those obtained by the DGA and WGA. - See more at: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/new-sag-aftra-deal-builds-716803#sthash.LSnN8dZO.dpuf
The new deal reached just after midnight Friday by SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP (representing studios and producers) achieved several key union goals: it unifies the legacy SAG and AFTRA television agreements, incorporates basic cable into an industry-wide agreement for the first time and includes wage increases and new media improvements similar to those obtained by the DGA and WGA. - See more at: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/new-sag-aftra-deal-builds-716803#sthash.LSnN8dZO.dpuf
The new deal reached just after midnight Friday by SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP (representing studios and producers) achieved several key union goals: it unifies the legacy SAG and AFTRA television agreements, incorporates basic cable into an industry-wide agreement for the first time and includes wage increases and new media improvements similar to those obtained by the DGA and WGA. - See more at: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/new-sag-aftra-deal-builds-716803#sthash.LSnN8dZO.dpuf

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