Here is the letter of “Kyle XY” series regular, Bruce Thomas, that was posted on the SAG Actor Bulletin Board. It will give you some insight of the future of actors, if they sit idly by as AFTRA continues to poach SAG’s shows with their producer friendly giveaways.
Dear Fellow Members of S.A.G. and AFTRA:
My conscience is killing me, and I can’t stay silent any longer. I can tell youfrom personal experience that it is in the best interest of all actors to Vote No on the AFTRA Exhibit A deal. Voting No is the only way to ensure that S.A.G.gets a better deal at the bargaining table and the best way for AFTRA to improve its own contract terms.
Last year, during the S.A.G/AFTRA Basic Cable conflicts, members of my show,KYLE XY, and I drafted an open letter that regrettably we never released. In it we complained about AFTRA’s Basic Cable contracts, and as importantly, detailed our experiences with AFTRA. The history of this experience is still relevantand bears repeating. So, bear with me while I quote from that letter:
“We never agreed to the contract terms that AFTRA negotiated after we had signed ourdeals; in fact,we didn’t even know the show would be covered by AFTRA. When our own union pieces together a contract using the worst parts of the standard cable series contracts from both SAG and AFTRA to make one document that most benefits producers, it is injuring its own members. Something is really wrong.
We suffered long workdays without overtime pay, forced calls without compensation for having very little turn around time to get to work the next day, and worked through scheduled lunch breaks with no penalties whatsoever.
This is a breach of its responsibility to protect its members. But this is only part of the reason for this letter.”
KYLE XY is shot in Canada, and produced for The ABC Family Channel. When it began airing in the summer of 2006, our ratings numbers were substantial enough for the network to be proud of them. ABC then decided to promote their cable affiliate by running Kyle during ABC primetime, Friday nights at 9pm. We wereall excited at the news. Wow, we now have two airings a week in prime time, on two networks. But we began hearing that there is a provision in our contract that allows a network to run a show a number of times for promotion.
Well, ok, so we don?t make residuals after all, but we’ll run a few times on network, and we’ll get lots of attention that will be good for everyone. Then, we found outthat the ratings numbers on ABC were not only good enough to stay on the network, but we actually began winning our time slot. ABC decided to air theentire season. Great,we thought. We’ll surely take home some residual checks now. We have to, right? Surely they can?t run all ten episodes as promotion and thereby tally up all that ad revenue with no compensation to us, right? Wrong.
They can because AFTRA gave them the right to.
We asked an entertainment lawyer how this could be, and on our behalf he began calling AFTRA for some clarification and to get a look at the contract that none of us had seen. There were numerous unreturned calls and emails to the contracts department. We weren’t sure what to do. Soon enough, we were into shooting season two. Summer of 2007 saw season two airing once again on both networks inexactly the same way but this time, it lasted only through the first four episodes, then, ABC decided to replace us with a different ABC Family show called Greek during that same ABC time slot.
In total Kyle XY ran a total of fourteen times on ABC without paying a single dollar in residuals of any kind. And because of the free exhibition days? clauses in the contract, we apparently may never receive any residuals for its runs on cable.
We feel that AFTRA as a union has fiduciary responsibilities to look after, protect, and fight for our rights as members. In our case it has failed miserably to do that. It is responsible for taking money directly out of our pockets. After all, it was not the producers or the network of our show that
crossed out provisions in our contracts. It was our own union. Furthermore, no one from AFTRA at any time contacted any of the cast to get our permission to make these changes (even though they claim otherwise).
We have learned the hard way that you certainly can’t count on AFTRA to protect you. On the contrary, for whatever reason, our union is clearly out to sabotage all the hard work that SAG has done over the years. We are clearly the losers. And we are not happy.”
For a long time last year we got no satisfaction from AFTRA. They failed to respond to our phone calls or emails, and even to the phone calls and emails of our attorneys. We talked to fellow actors and they encouraged us to make public our complaints. We never did, but we had to threaten AFTRA with the notion that we would go public before we finally got a meeting.
Early this year, members of the cast of KYLE XY met with AFTRA officials on two occasions to air our complaints. AFTRA never brought a copy of the contract to any of those meetings, although our attorneys finally got one. Since our union contract was up for renegotiation, some thought it would be smartest to take the show S.A.G.,but AFTRA insisted they could get us equal terms and conditions. They said we could be part of the negotiation. Oh, AFTRA renegotiated the contract, but we weren’t a part of it. They called us after the fact to say it was done. We still haven?t seen a copy of that contract, and I’ve been told not to expect residuals until overscale payment caps are reached, but AFTRA insists they did a bang up job on the renegotiation. Actors deserve better.
They also claimed they were filing grievances for workplace violations,but six months later we have not heard word one from AFTRA about these, nor received a penny in penalty payments.
I can tell you, I am still disappointed in AFTRA?s handling of our complaints. I am disappointed in how it responds to actors? issues and needs. I do not feel it properly or honestly represents actors at the bargaining table. I feel it purposely keeps actors confused about the process of contract negotiations and the results,and I am deeply suspicious that its recent behavior is all about serving the institution, and not actors, its largest constituency.
It has definitely let me down. I would prefer the Screen Actors Guild have a decent shot at improving wages and working conditions for actors, and I and a lot of other actors don’t believe that’s possible unless we VOTE NOon the AFTRA Exhibit A contract.
Bruce’s post was followed by another actor who has gone 30 months without receiving residuals for his work on the AFTRA show “Drake and Josh.”
He was a tad more blunt in his condemnation of AFTRA. Here is what he said.
You think I dreamed my whole nauseating experience with AFTRA and “Drake and Josh”?
Guess not, huh? Go to Hell, AFTRA, you cheap little whore.
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to Bruce Thomas for coming forward with his story. Actors need to know what’s going on, before it is too late. If you have an AFTRA Horror story the Ol’ Dog would love to hear from you.
Remember a NO Vote in the AFTRA Exhibit “A” Rollback Referendum is a YES Vote for your future.