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Veteran’s Day Offices Closures

November 8, 2017 (11:30) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

SAG-AFTRA offices will be closed Friday, Nov. 10 in honor of Veterans Day. They will re-open on Monday, Nov. 13.



SAG-AFTRA Members Ratify New Video Game Contract, Ending Longest U.S. Actors’ Strike

November 7, 2017 (22:38) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

SAG-AFTRA members have voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new video game contract and end the longest actors’ strike in U.S. history. The 340-day strike, which was launched against 11 major companies on Oct. 21, 2016, was suspended on Sept. 25 when the union reached a deal with the companies. That deal was unanimously approved by the guild’s board last month, and now with the ratification, the strike is officially over.

The union said that the members voted by a margin of 90% to 10% to ratify the agreement, but did not release the actual vote totals. Only those who had earnings under the contract after Jan. 1, 2008, were allowed to vote. Informational voting cards were mailed to approximately 7,200 affected members, of which only 10% voted. Based on those numbers, the pact was approved by a vote of about 648 to 72.

Gabrielle Carteris

“This agreement is the first step towards streamlining the work our members do in the video game industry,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “The deal includes significant improvements in the area of transparency and the payment structure ensures that our members are compensated fairly for their work. I am excited for what this means for our members moving forward.”

The main feature of the new contract is a bonus structure that provides additional payments to performers based on the number of sessions worked. Those bonuses begin with an additional $75 payment on the first session and can add up to $2,100 after 10 sessions worked.

It’s not quite the type of residuals system the union stuck for, but in the end, it was close enough to end the strike.  SAG-AFTRA had been seeking a back-end payments schedule that would have given performers a full day’s pay for every 500,000 units sold, up to four secondary payments if the game sells 2 million units.

“The bonus payments we asked for are now part of the video game industry and are a base from which to build upon,” said Keythe Farley, chair of the union’s negotiating committee. “I’m excited for all that we have achieved.”

SAG-AFTRA video game strike merger anniversary video
David Robb/Deadline

The new pact also contains new transparency provisions that the union says “will enhance the bargaining power of our members’ representatives by requiring the companies to disclose the code name of the project, its genre, whether the game is based on previously published intellectual property and whether the performer is reprising a prior role. Members are also protected by the disclosure of whether they will be required to use unusual terminology, profanity or racial slurs, whether there will be content of a sexual or violent nature and whether stunts will be required.”

The contract also includes an employer commitment to continue working with SAG-AFTRA on the issue of vocal stress during the term of the agreement.

“This negotiation was hard fought and hard won,” said SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White. “We achieved a stronger successor agreement and I am proud of the results.”

“The bonus payments we asked for are now part of the video game industry and are a base from which to build upon,” said Keythe Farley, chair of the union’s negotiating committee. “I’m excited for all that we have achieved.”

The contact becomes effective November 8 and expires November 7, 2020.

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The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

*Headline Photo selected by Watchdog



WGA East, SAG-AFTRA Protest Over Closures of DNAinfo, Gothamist in New York

November 7, 2017 (11:01) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

DNAinfo and Gothamist Unionization Protest
More than 300 people have rallied in Manhattan to support writers at the recently shuttered New York news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist.The event, held at New York’s City Hall Park, took place Monday — four days after billionaire Joe Ricketts announced he had shut down the sites. The Writers Guild of America East had announced on Oct. 27 that the editorial staffs at the DNAinfo and Gothamist had voted to unionize.

The event was emceed by WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson, who invoked the final words of labor activist Joe Hill and said, “We come not to mourn, but to organize.”

Speakers at the rally included DNAinfo writer Ben Fractenberg, Gothamist reporter Emma Whitford, Gizmodo Media Group’s Brendan O’Connor, SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, NYC Central Labor Council president Vincent Alvarez, public advocate Letitia James, comptroller Scott Stringer, and Manhattan Borough president Gale Brewer.

Ricketts said in the Nov. 2 memo that he had decided to close the sites due to poor financial performance. “DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” he added.

In September, Ricketts had said in a post on his blog titled “Why I’m Against Unions at Businesses I Create” that “unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.”

Peterson said Monday that Ricketts may have violated federal law by closing down the sites. The WGA East said on Oct. 27 that in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, 25 of Gothamist/DNAinfo’s 27 editorial employees voted in favor of the WGA East as their representative in collective bargaining.

“Joe Ricketts needs to come clean,” Peterson said. “Did he violate the law by firing people because they exercised their right to unionize? Or did he decide the business wasn’t generating enough profit, and then try to score some ideological points by blaming his employees and their union? Either way, these journalists do work that is essential to communities across New York, and the WGAE will make sure their rights are protected and their voices are heard.”

Carteris also spoke at the rally, saying, “This closing of these news organizations is a travesty. SAG-AFTRA stands in solidarity with the Writers Guild of America-East and the extraordinary journalists of Gothamist and DNAist who are standing up for our federally protected right to collectively bargain. We are with you.”

The WGA East reps digital news staffs at Vice, HuffPost, the Intercept, Gizmodo Media Group (Splinter, Gizmodo, Jezebel, Deadspin, the Root, Lifehacker, Kotaku, io9, Jalopnik, and Earther), ThinkProgress, MTV News, Thrillist, and Salon.

Hmmm…me believes Joe’s esprit de corps is more like esprit de crap!
The Ol’ SAG Watchdog



New Zealand Poised to Repeal Anti-Union ‘Hobbit Law

November 1, 2017 (00:34) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

Hollywood Reporter

The 2010 law, passed at Warner Bros.’ insistence, bars unionization of the NZ film industry. A new Labour government has targeted it for repeal and now it’s “goneburger,” says one guild leader.

New Zealand’s controversial “Hobbit law,” which prevents workers in that country’s film industry from unionizing, will likely be on its way out in the next hundred days, according to a senior government minister interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter and local media reports, which first highlighted the matter. The country’s new Labour-led coalition government has promised to repeal the law, which was introduced in 2010 under pressure from Hobbit producer Warner Bros. and flew through Parliament on a party-line vote under the previous, center-right National Party administration.

But achieving that repeal will require cooperation from Labour’s two coalition partners, one of whose position is unknown.

Prohibiting film workers from organizing and collectively bargaining “is a breach of International Labour Organization Convention 98 which New Zealand has ratified and must therefore adhere to,” said Labour’s incoming Workplace Relations Minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, in an email to THR. “We expect to introduce the necessary [repeal] legislation within 100 days.”

After that, the Parliamentary process would “probably [be] within around six months,” he added — far longer than the two days it took to originally pass the law under “urgency” procedures.

The statute, more formally the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010, had its genesis when the Burbank studio threatened to pull the US $500 million Hobbit project and move it to England or elsewhere in response to unionization attempts.

It was a potent threat against a tiny island nation of then-around 4 million people, particularly in light of the tourist boom sparked by the earlier Lord of the Rings films and expected from the Hobbit prequels — and the law dovetailed with the Kiwi government’s pro-business tilt under the then-prime minister, former Merrill Lynch executive John Key.

Undoing the legislation has since been a priority for Labour, said Lees-Galloway. The party placed second behind National in New Zealand’s elections a month ago, but ultimately formed a government in coalition with the nationalist New Zealand First Party — whose leader, Winston Peters, acted as kingmaker — and via a looser arrangement, called a “confidence and supply agreement,” with the Greens. The new prime minister, Labour’s 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern, was sworn in last Thursday and the government held initial meetings and briefings Monday (Sunday, Los Angeles time).

The Greens opposed the “Hobbit law” seven years ago, but NZ First’s position is unknown. THR has reached out to leaders of both parties, as election results suggest that the support of both will be needed for Labour to achieve repeal.

“This is a law that is deeply unfair for workers, so it is wonderful to see our new Government make its repeal a priority,” said Equity New Zealand president Jennifer Ward-Lealand in a statement on the performer union’s website. “We look forward to working with Prime Minister Ardern and her team to create a thriving arts and entertainment industry that still manages to treat its workers with dignity and respect.”

Ward-Lealand was a key participant in a six-week, high-profile fight in 2010 that saw Key and other ministers appearing in the media on a daily basis. An unrequited demand for residuals and a union contract had led to a strike notice by the International Federation of Actors — actually, a federation of actors unions, including Equity NZ, SAG and AFTRA (now SAG-AFTRA) and others — and that led to Warners’ threat to pull the project from the country.

The latter threat sparked New Zealand’s “Hobbit crisis,” as street protests erupted in cities up and down the country seeking to keep the films in-country, picketers marched on Parliament and the nation’s currency briefly fell on the possibility of losing the lucrative project. Warners deployed location scouts around the world to magnify its threat, with England’s Leavesden Studios, site of the Harry Potter shoots, emerging as a supposed alternative to director-producer Peter Jackson’s Wellington facilities.

Jackson vowed to “fight like hell” to keep the production in-country, then slammed the New Zealand union for its ties to an Australian media union, apparently bypassing the irony that Warners was a foreign stakeholder too. Ultimately, studio lawyers and executives, including now-CEO Kevin Tsujihara, flew into the country and, shuttled around in limousines paid for by the government, met with Key and other top officials.

They departed a day or so later, and the government introduced the “Hobbit law” in Parliament, emphasizing the financial benefit of retaining the Hobbit production and describing the legislation as a “clarification” of existing law. The statute passed before the weekend arrived, even as Labour charged angrily that the move “reduced New Zealand to a client state of a U.S. movie studio.”

In addition to effectively dictating — and perhaps even drafting — legislation, the Burbank studio also managed to extract an additional US $25 million in government concessions above and beyond the approximately US $75 million tax incentives that had already been agreed on, leading one MP to decry the affair as a “shakedown.”

Warner Bros. and Equity NZ declined to comment for this story.

The first of the Hobbit trilogy premiered in Wellington two years thereafter, but less than two months later a government ombudsman’s ruling resulted in the disclosure of emails supporting an earlier THR report that the unions had withdrawn the strike threat before Warners even arrived, which raised questions as to why the legislation was needed at all.

Also, the studio’s threat to move the project to avoid union terms and conditions was belied by the fact that every other English-speaking film industry in the world was already unionized. Would executives really have ripped Jackson and his sets, props, miniatures, cast and crew from their “Wellywood” home in order to avoid an actors union, only to deposit them in already unionized England instead?

Still, the unions had been outmaneuvered by the studio and government working in concert, leaving a bitter taste for many on New Zealand’s left.

The matter also sparked about two dozen academic papers and a book (full disclosure: written by this reporter) that highlighted the incident as an unusually dramatic example of corporate leverage exerted against a nation-state and its workers. Now, with the change in government, it appears that the Hobbit affair is unexpectedly coming full-circle.

“The Hobbit Law [is] goneburger,” said NZ Directors an Editors Guild executive director Tui Ruwhiu in a recent blog post, adding “It’s up to the guilds to make sure that happens.”



The Ol’ SAG Zealot

*Headline photo selected by the Watchdog



  SAG-AFTRA and the JPC Release FAQs on the Low Budget Digital Waiver

October 29, 2017 (16:46) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

 This from SAG-AFTRA Website:
SAG-AFTRA and the JPC Release FAQs on the Low Budget Digital Waiver

SAG-AFTRA and the JPC recently released the Commercials Low Budget Digital Waiver. This waiver creates more work for professional performers like you, and provides opportunities for ad agencies to retain clients for low budget digital projects. We’ve received inquiries about this waiver and thought it would be good to address them with a jointly issued Frequently Asked Questions:

Commercials Low Budget Digital Waiver FAQ

If you have a budget under $50,000, the Commercial Low Budget Digital Waiver allows people to hire the best talent for Internet and New Media Commercials. There are no set rates and all principal and extra rates are negotiable.

Q: What is the effective date of the waiver?
A: Immediately.

Q: Is Producer required to get permission from the union in advance before using
this waiver or provide a final edit to the union for review?

A: No advance approval is required. Go produce! And it is not necessary to send in a copy of the commercial, although the union may request one if a claim is filed.

Q: Can the waiver be used for television commercials?
A: No, the waiver is only for commercials made for Internet and/or New Media.

Q: Can the waiver be used for audio commercials?
A: No, the waiver only applies to the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract.

Q: Who is allowed to produce under the waiver?
A: It is only available to JPC authorizers and advertisers and advertising agencies that are signatories to the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract. The waiver is not available to 3rd party signatories.

Q: What is included in the $50,000 budget limit?
A: The $50,000 includes the production line only (including, for example, talent, director, producer, props, wardrobe, and location fees). Post-production costs (including, for example, editorial, agency travel, dub and shipping costs) are not included.

Q: What if I am producing multiple Internet/New Media commercials and my total
budget exceeds $50,000?

A: The $50,000 budget is per commercial.

Example 1: A Producer is shooting two (2) Internet commercials over the course of two (2) days with a total budget of $100,000. The production would qualify for the waiver because the cost per commercial is within the $50,000 budget.

Example 2: A Producer is shooting five (5) New Media commercials in one day with a total budget of $150,000. The production would qualify for the waiver because the cost per commercial is within the $50,000 budget.

Example 3: A Producer is shooting a TV commercial and an Internet commercial, with a total budget of $300,000. If, using commercially reasonable efforts, the Producer can determine that $50,000 of the total budget is attributable to the Internet commercial, the waiver would apply with respect to the Internet commercial only.

Q: In the event of unanticipated budget overages do we lose the waiver?
A: No. From time-to-time unforeseen circumstances will have an adverse impact on the budget, and the Producer should not be penalized for these unforeseen circumstances. Examples of such unforeseen circumstances include your typical acts of Force Majeure (such as weather, illness, acts of God, and injury).

Q: Should producers use the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract standard
employment agreement (i.e., A-1 or A-2)?

A: Yes, please continue to use the standard A-1 and A-2s for production and note the negotiated fees in the Special Provisions portion of the form.

Q: What does the Preference provision of the waiver mean?
A: The goal of the bargaining parties in establishing the waiver is to increase the employment of professional performers in Internet/New Media commercials while also providing relief to signatory advertisers and advertising agencies. That being said, the union recognizes that in some instances (e.g., because of production location or costs) it may be difficult to hire professional performers. As a result, a Producer is permitted to hire non-professional performers, and will not be fined for Preference of Employment or Union Security. The Producer must, however, file a Taft-Hartley for each of the non-union performers.

Q: If a commercial produced under this waiver airs beyond the 1-year-use-period
on a site other than a social media platform, is Producer required to negotiate
with the performers for this use?

A: Yes.

Q: When, exactly, should notification be made to performers or their agents that
this job is subject to the waiver?

A: For principal performers, this information should be in the casting breakdown or stated to performer/performer’s agent prior to receiving an audition call time. Extra performers must be informed prior to booking the job.

I don’t know if I’ve put my finger on it, this is just a hunch on  the Ol’ Dog’s part but I’m guessing that after a lot of V/O folks read the above,  it will be greeted with a Digital response!


The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

*Headline Photo selected by the Watchdog