The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and NPR are pleased to announce the ratification and signing of a new three-year contract covering NPR’s news and programming employees. The contract was ratified last week by an overwhelming majority of NPR’s SAG-AFTRA represented employees and then signed by SAG-AFTRA and NPR at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Monday, July 31. NPR and SAG-AFTRA have shared a long and productive relationship throughout the years. This was evident in the recent negotiations, as NPR and SAG-AFTRA’s bargaining teams worked tirelessly and constructively to find common ground. Today NPR and SAG-AFTRA together celebrate the tremendous talents of NPR’s news and programming teams and look forward to supporting NPR’s mission and service to the American public.
PREVIOUSLY, July 15: A threatened SAG-AFTRA strike against National Public Radio has been averted. “We have a tentative agreement,” the union said on its website. The two sides edged to the brink of a strike when the union’s contract expired Friday night. NPR employees covered by the contract had asked for authorization to strike, but the new deal now precludes that
The deal, which was reached near the end on a 24-hour contract extension on top of a two-week extension, provides for salary increases and “effectively repelled efforts to erode union protections and institute a two-tiered salary system,” the union said in a statement.
NPR wanted the right to pay lower wages to new-hires, but the union said this could stifle the hiring of women and minorities. “Management’s attempt to create a second-class of minimums for new employees may discourage diverse candidates from entering the NPR workforce,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Equal pay for equal work.”
The new agreement must now be ratified by the covered employees.
NPR (also known as National Public Radio) is a non-profit media media organization that serves as a national syndicator to a network of 900 public radio stations in the United States. Two of NPR’s flagships are the two popular drive time news broadcasts Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Tempers flared at a raucous SAG-AFTRA informational meeting in Burbank yesterday when a security guard grabbed presidential candidate Esai Morales and tussled with him, yanking the microphone out of his hands as he tried to speak to the members from the floor about his opposition to the union’s new film and TV contract.
“He snatched the mic out of my hand, and I don’t like it when people to do that,” Morales told Deadline after the meeting. “It was a tussle for the mic. It became a tug of war, and I’m not to be pushed around. I wasn’t there to throw blows; I was there to speak my mind. I was full of adrenaline and I didn’t know where we were going to take this.”
No punches were thrown, but the incident shows the deepening divide within the guild as it holds an election and a contract ratification vote at the same time. “There was much dissension in the room over many issues,” said Peter Antico, who is also running for president of the union.
When chief contract officer Ray Rodriguez spoke, some of the 300 members packed into the ballroom at the Pickwick Gardens Conference Center began shouting their displeasure. One of their chief objections is that the new contract gives up so-called “portal to portal” pay, in which performers on location are paid from the time they are picked up at their hotels each morning until the time they are returned. In its place, the union negotiated what it calls an “historic breakthrough in the rules governing travel for television performers, including an up to five-fold increase in the fees due to series performers who work at locations away from home.”
At the end of the meeting, Carteris began answering written questions submitted by members, but many others wanted to speak to the issues. Members lined up at the microphone, but each was only given one minute to speak.
When it was his turn, Antico, who is running as an independent candidate, spoke out against the contract and the union’s “give away” of portal-to-portal, which had never been codified in past contracts but has been the generally accepted practice for decades.
“When I spoke, I made the economic case against removing portal to portal, which has been honored for over 40 years,” Antico said. “After one minute, Gabrielle said I couldn’t speak anymore. Esai objected. He said, ‘Keep speaking. Don’t allow them to silence you.’ ” Antico surrendered the mic, but turned to the audience and finished the point he’d been making.
Morales, who’s running on the Membership First slate – all of whose members voted against the contract at Saturday’s board meeting, where the new pact was approved 77.4%-22.6% – then got in line to speak. But when it came Morales’ turn, the meeting was declared over.
Not to be silenced, Morales took the mic and began speaking to the crowd. A security guard hired by the union stepped in and tried to grab the microphone from him, and the two men started tussling over it.
“A security guard grabbed him and tried to rip the mike out of his hands,” Antico said. “I told the security guy to back off, to be calm and ethical. I said, ‘Take your hands off this man. This is unethical. Take your hands off him.’ Esai took the mic back but they shut it off and the meeting was over.”
Contacted by Deadline, Morales said he was “disturbed and tired of what appeared to be tactics to limit our speech. I was the only candidate there that didn’t get to speak.” And when he did try to speak, the security guard tried to stop him.
“I am not going to vilify the staff and Gabrielle,” he said. “It’s not easy to do what they do, but I also find it disingenuous of them to talk about unity when they don’t share power or reach across the aisle. They are into consolidating their own power and their spin.”
“I’ve been on the board 17 years and I’ve never lost my cool,” Morales said, “but I was not going to allow this injustice, where certain candidates could speak. It was highly unfair, and I’m about fairness.” Morales, who refrained from speaking out during negotiations, said, “My main job isn’t to campaign for myself, but to do the best I can for the members.”
“This incident is a demonstration of a dictatorship, not a democracy,” Antico said. “The tactics of this leadership is to keep the members uninformed and silent. This meeting is an example of their refusal to allow the members to have an open debate about the issues.”
The contract ratification is being conducted in the middle of a union election, and informational meetings are scheduled in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, Miami and Bethesda.
Antico maintains that the union’s rules prohibit union moneys from being spent on electioneering, but that’s what it will be doing if it pays for Carteris to attend upcoming informational meetings at the union’s expense. They only fair thing, he says, would be if the union pay for all the presidential candidates to attend and speak at the meetings. “She’ll be going around the country without a dissenting voice and campaigning for president on the members’ dime, which is against our election rules,” he said. “It’s called electioneering. All SAG-AFTRA presidential candidates should flown and lodged equally to attend these meetings.”
“I’m very concerned that these contract ratification meetings are being conducted during an election,” Morales said, “where the president can go all around the country, campaigning for this contract while the rest of us board members and candidates are being held to confidentiality. I would like equal time to talk about this contract and our platforms.”
“We believe that they’re more interested in selling what they call a ‘good deal’ than listening to the real will of the people,” he said. “They have a platform. They control it all the way up and down, and they do everything that can to control the message. I was just standing up for a dissenting voice.”
The report, mailed to members last week and posted on the guild’s website today, showed that employment in all work areas combined was down 3.5% for fiscal-year 2016 that ended March 31, 2017. The WGAW touted that total earnings topped $1.2 billion for a third year in a row, but its reported $1.23 billion was down 3.1% from 2015.
TV writers earned $860.9 million during the span, down 1.7%, while film writers earned $359.8 million, down 6.4%. While the number of news, promotion, informational and interactive programming writers was off 3.1%, that group made $12.4 million, up 5.5%.
The guild reported total revenues for the fiscal year at $34.3 million, up from $30.7 million a year ago, and an operating surplus of $6.2 million. Expenditures of $28.1 million were higher than FY 2016’s total of $27.1 million, which the WGA said owed to fewer staff vacancies and expenditures related to preparation for renegotiating renegotiating the new film and TV contract.
Those negotiations faced several standoffs and a strike-authorization vote before a deal was reached in the early-morning hours of May 2 after the contract’s midnight expiration date.
WGA residuals fell 5.3%, according to the report — 7.5% in TV and 1% in film — which the guild attributed “to late delivery of checks at the year end, which moves those amounts into the 2017 accounting period.”
The merger of the $235 million SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union with the $73 million Musicians’ Interguild Credit Union previously had received approval from state and federal regulators, and now it has been ratified by their members. The merged credit union will keep the name SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union, and SAFCU chief executive Roger Runyon will be its CEO.
The new merged credit union will not only serve the needs of actors and musicians, but numerous other industry professionals as well. Unions and organizations that offer membership include:
SAG-AFTRA SAG Foundation SAG Pension Plan SAG-AFTRA Health Plan AFTRA Retirement Fund Actors Fund, Western Region American Guild of Variety Artists, Casting Society of America Hollander Talent Group Set Decorators Society of America Talent Managers Association
The Directors Guild of America The WGA West The Producers Guild of America American Federation of Musicians Local 7 American Federation of Musicians Local 47 American Federation of Musicians Local 308 American Federation of Musicians Local 325 American Federation of Musicians Local 353 American Federation of Musicians Local 655 Musicians’ Assistance Program Musicians’ Club of Los Angeles Musicians Institute Orange County Musicians’ Club IATSE Prop Local 44 IATSE Grips Local 80 IATSE Cinematographers Guild Local 600 IATSE Costumers Local 705 IATSE Studio Electrical Lighting Technicians Local 728 IATSE Set Painters and Sign Writers Local 729 IATSE Art Directors Guild Local 800 IATSE Animation Guild Local 839 IATSE Treasurers & Ticket Sellers Local 857 IATSE Script Supervisors Local 871 IATSE Costume Designers Guild Local 892 Employees of the IATSE’s West Coast office Employees of Technique System Solutions Employees of Western Costume Co. Entertainment Publicists Professional Society So Cal IBEW-NECA Trust Fund The Valley Master Chorale Welsh Choir of Southern California Association of Theatrical Press Agents & Managers Spouses of deceased members, providing they have not remarried
For the third night in a row, SAG-AFTRA and producers have agreed to extend their talks for a new film and TV contract by a day. The sides will convene again on Monday at the AMPTP headquarters in Encino.
Progress was reported last night as the actors and management’s Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke for the night. The union’s old contract expired Friday night at midnight PT, but is being extended on a day-to-day basis to allow the negotiators a chance to reach an agreement.
If the talks fail, union leaders say they’ll ask their members for strike authorization. A strike, if it comes to that, won’t take place for several weeks. The guild has scheduled membership informational meetings through July 9, and it could take several more weeks after that to complete a strike authorization vote.
Informal talks for the new pact began on May 15, but formal negotiations didn’t begin until May 31, which only gave negotiators a month to reach an agreement.
Actors haven’t struck the film and TV industry since 1980, although the union is currently engaged in a 255-day strike against selected videogame companies – the longest strike in SAG history.