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The Scamble Continues

August 17, 2014 (22:22) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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Split Decision: New SAG-AFTRA Pact Calls for Sharing of Pension And Health Contributions

EXCLUSIVE: While SAG-AFTRA officials have been touting all the benefits of the union’s proposed new film and TV contract, they’ve remained mum about one key issue: How will the 17% of actors’ earnings that employers pay into the union’s two separate pension and health plans be allocated? It’s a key question because the two plans – the SAG Pension and Health Plan and the AFTRA Health & Retirement Fund – have different eligibility requirements and offer different benefit packages. Deadline has learned that SAG’s Pension and Health Plan will receive contributions from new one-hour network shows (mostly dramas), new half-hour basic cable shows (mostly sitcoms), and everything new made for syndication, other than shows made for the CW. Contributions on earnings from new TV shows made for new media, pay TV and home video also will go into the SAG plan.

All existing shows that are currently contributing to one plan or the other will continue to make contribution to those plans. In other words, there will be no switching of plans, as the deal only affects new shows going forward.

Related: New Rule Lets Actors Combine SAG & AFTRA Earnings To Qualify For Health Care

The allocation plan was based on a five-year study of the way the two different pension and health plans had been receiving contributions, which has resulted in a split of 57% of contributions going to the SAG plan and 43% going to the AFTRA plan.

As has always been the case, contributions on actors’ earnings from theatrical motion pictures will continue to go to the SAG plan.

The proposed new contract has already been overwhelmingly approved by the unions board of directors and must now be ratified by the union’s membership.  

So, what does that leave AFTRA?  Well….

Let’s now examine the section detailing AFTRA’s jurisdiction. (Notice that this jurisdiction was initially given to the TVA (Television Authority) which later combined with AFRA to become AFTRA.

As it is clear that SAG has jurisdiction over all motion pictures produced for television, it is also abundantly clear that AFTRA’s jurisdiction as derived through the TVA is limited to LIVE television. Yes, kinescopes or other devices are noted but only for programs done in the manner of a live broadcast.

This pretty well limits AFTRA’s jurisdiction to talk shows, game shows, news shows, D.J.’s and little else. The truth of the matter, it could be argued that even Soaps are no longer done in a LIVE MANNER.

 So what has Ken and his anti-SAG UFS gang done?  They arbitrarily based this split on the last five years.  You know the time period they handed over SAG’s NLRB mandated jurisdiction over to AFTRA.  Have actors been scammed?  What was that Ken? But, but, but…..


The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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An Actor’s Cautionary Tale: Cancer Diagnosis and a Drawn-Out Battle Over Residuals.

August 14, 2014 (14:12) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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11:59 AM PST 08/14/2014 by Jonathan Handel

Diagnosed with cancer in 2012, Alex Doe endured a 3 1/2-year residuals runaround from Warner Bros. and SAG-AFTRA that threatened health insurance coverage

A version of this story originally appeared in the Aug. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Actors often complain about late residuals checks, although SAG-AFTRA has cut processing delays lately. But few stories compare to the battle waged by Alex Doe (whose name has been changed by THR), a voice actor who was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and endured a 3½-year residuals runaround from Warner Bros. and SAG-AFTRA that threatened Doe’s health insurance.

Boomerang, the offshoot of Time Warner’s Cartoon Network, failed to report thousands of reruns of the actor’s show for several years, and the Warner Bros. residuals department resisted the union’s contrary data. The actor filed a claim with SAG in February 2011, and the union and studio began arguing about the number of reruns and whether Doe had been overpaid on a DVD release. Warners repeatedly promised more information — surprisingly, collective bargaining agreements don’t require that any particular data be provided — and months often passed between emails and phone calls. In 2012, the head of the union’s residuals claims department referred the matter to a legal department attorney.

But even with both departments involved, the delays continued. (A possible reason: Union attorneys are assigned crushingly large caseloads and also were busy with the complex SAG-AFTRA merger and several major contract negotiations.) “SAG was lazy, and Warner Bros. was negligent,” says the actor in an interview. Nothing much happened until Doe brought in a private lawyer this spring to hound the union. Even then, meaningful residuals didn’t start flowing until the end of July, after Doe enlisted a talent agency exec who interceded with Warners directly.

SAG-AFTRA counters that what dislodged the money was that Cartoon Network stopped running the series, which, the union says, made it easier to highlight the unpaid Boomerang residuals. “Our team … successfully recovered approximately $200,000 for [Doe and castmates],” a union rep tells THR, calling the case “unfortunate.”

Doe also charges that union representatives were misleading and unsympathetic, and often failed to return calls or make follow-up calls. The particular staffers Doe dealt with have been praised by some members and criticized by others. The union calls them “diligent and dedicated.”

“We all feel a tremendous obligation to ensure the best result for [Doe] and all our members whenever we are pursuing residuals claims,” says a spokesperson. “In certain cases, full and final resolution to a claim may take an extended period of time and that happened in this matter.”

Residuals collected exceed $2 billion per year in aggregate across all entertainment unions, but how much goes uncollected? SAG-AFTRA alone processes over 3.5 million paper checks annually in face amounts that range from meaningless (one cent) to tens of thousands of dollars. Performers’ residuals can average 40 percent of their total compensation, and SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White told THR in 2011 that “very little that we do is more important than getting our members their residuals.”

Doe’s cancer now is in remission, and the independent SAG Health Plan recorded the residuals so that the actor will remain eligible for health insurance. A Warners rep tells THR the studio expects to supply “all outstanding payments and detailed supporting documentation” by the end of August, which could mean full payment for reruns, DVDs, foreign uses, new media and interest on the late payments. Castmates might be owed money, too. Of the ordeal, the Warners rep says, “We very much regret this unfortunate incident and the delay in processing [Doe's] residuals.”

Bookmark The Hollywood Reporter’s Labor Page for the most in-depth coverage of entertainment unions and guilds.

Email: jh@jhandel.com
Twitter: @jhandel


Good reporting Mr. Handel.  And all the best to our unknown V/O friend.



UPDATE!!! Credit Expansion Is A Matter Of How Much Not If!

August 13, 2014 (23:17) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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Eric Garcetti said today that there will be an expansion of California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program, it is only a question of how much it will be. The remark from the LA Mayor this afternoon came after Garcetti and several other California Mayors met with Gov. Jerry Brown and other state politicians in Sacramento. The current thinking, as Deadline reported last week, is that the program will be upped to around $400 million. That will likely happen before or during a hearing of the state Senate Appropriations committee on  the widely supported and multi-sponsored Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act. If the Act gets the blessing of the Senator Kevin de Leon chaired committee, it will go to the Senate floor for a full vote and then to Brown’s desk for his signature. Garcetti has been a vocal and active supporter of halting runaway production out of the home of Hollywood and encouraging filming in the Golden State. 



The Ol’ SAG Watchdog 

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UPDATE: $400M Expansion & End Of Lottery For California Film & TV Tax Credit Program Passes Final Committee

August 14, 2014 1:30pm

UPDATE, 1:30  PM: The state Senate Appropriations committee has just unanimously passed an expansion of California’s $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit Program to $400 million. The expansion will also or sure see the end of the current lottery system that determines who gets the incentives. “The amendments will replace the currently flawed and arbitrary lottery system with a more competitive and accountable system,” said incoming Senate President Pro Tem and Appropriations Committee chair Kevin de Leon today. “Applicants will be ranked according to the net new jobs created and overall positive economic impact for the entire state,” he added. Sources tell me that the final number as well as the eradication of the lottery was worked out in negotiations last night. Hoping to expend the program to 2022 and make pics with budgets over $75 million and network pilots eligible, the Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act now goes to the Senate floor for a full vote. It then goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. See statements from California lawmakers, guilds and others in response to the vote at the bottom of this post.




It’s good to be one of SAG-AFTRA staff’s Top Wage Earners!

August 12, 2014 (18:08) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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The Following data From the 2014 DOL LM-2: The first number listed is gross salary followed by “Disbursements for Official Business” and lastly the total of both!      (Bonus:  President Howard’s expenses.)                                           

Howard,  Ken
$0 $0 $45,587    $45,587


Bennett,  Jeffrey P
Chief Deputy General Coun
$193,701 $0 $13,743 $0 $207,440


Bennett,  Michelle L
Executive Director, Gover
$192,996 $0 $1,396 $0 $194,392


Bensussen,  William Eva
Deputy General Counsel
$183,497 $0 $22,606 $0 $206,103


Cavallaro,  Mary
Chief Broadcast Officer
$188,055 $0 $23,916 $0 $211,971


Connell,  Kathleen L.
Aned Awards & Natl Progr
$252,506 $0 $18,133 $0 $270,639


Crabtree-Ireland,  Duncan W.
Chief Operating Officer/G
$270,560 $0 $51,940 $0 $322,500


Dunn Jr,  Mathis
Associate National Execut
$261,716 $0 $73,792 $0 $335,508


Greenwalt,  Pamela Ann
Chief Communications & Ma
$214,661 $0 $41,123 $0 $255,784


Kichaven,  Ilyanne M.
Executive Director, Los A
$182,809 $0 $10,125 $0 $192,934


La Grua,  Thomas J.
Contracts Executive Direc
$209,222 $0 $5,178 $0 $214,400
Larkin,  Richard
Associate Executive Direc
$260,632 $0 $12,957 $0 $273,589


McGuire,  John T.
Senior Advisor
$294,496 $0 $28,653 $0 $323,149


Ozzanto,  Arianna
Chief Financial Officer
$239,887 $0 $32,880 $0 $272,767


Viviano,  David N.
Chief Economist
$201,100 $0 $16,884 $0 $217,984


White,  David P.
National Executive Direct
$559,687 $0 $26,392 $0 $586,079

So, are they worth it?  Gawd, let’s hope so?  Something to ponder while you wait in the unemployment line.


The Ol’ SAG Watchdog



Okay, maybe it ain’t YELLOW journalism, But, but, but…

August 9, 2014 (20:49) | 2014 | By: Arlin Miller

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So did you get your get your big Ol’ glossy yellow SAG/AFTRA VOTE YES postcard.  Very slick!  You got to admit when it comes to spending the memberships’ money on such things, the current leadership spares no expense!  Hell, The last time we got something that glossy from SAG-AFTRA, it had Ned Vaughn’s picture all over it!!! 

Okay, again, I know that there are skeptics out there who are thinking the reason they sent us this postcard is ’cause things ain’t going that well for them in the voting.  And when they remind us on the postcard that “none of these gains go into effect if members don’t ratify the contract”  They ain’t thinking about themselves but about us members. 

So push out those chests and be proud…oops, look out for all those flying buttons.


The Ol’ SAG Watchdog  

Hmmm…didn’t Ol’ Yeller end up croaking in the end?