SAG-AFTRA has settled three unfair labor practice charges with Telemundo filed on behalf of the Spanish-language network’s telenovela performers. The settlement, which corrects the misclassification of Telemundo performers as independent contractors and reclassifies them as employees, was reached after a year of litigation and days before a trial at the National Labor Relations Board.
“This is a major victory for Spanish-language performers,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said. “This is an important step towards ending the unfairness that separates Telemundo performers from their English-language counterparts in the television industry. We will not rest until the Telemundo performers work under terms that are fair and just.”
“We’re getting closer to achieving our goal of establishing equity for Spanish-language performers and this outcome is a step in the right direction,” SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White said.
As part of the settlement, Telemundo also agreed to end its practice of preventing performers from talking about their wages and working conditions and prohibiting them from speaking negatively about Telemundo. It also agreed to end all unlawful performer contract provisions and policies that prevented performers from filing charges with the NLRB and required performers to indemnify Telemundo if it was found to have violated any law.
In March, Telemundo performers voted overwhelmingly to join SAG-AFTRA, marking the first time in more than 55 years that a group of actors at a major television network sought a unionization election. SAG-AFTRA and the network are still negotiating for a contract covering Spanish-language television talent.
It’s politics as usual at SAG-AFTRA in the wake of the union’s recent election, with several top vote-getters stepping down from their national and local board seats and handing them over to members of their own political faction.
The union has been deeply divided for years between two factions: Unite for Strength, the current ruling party that supported the 2012 merger of SAG and AFTRA, and Membership First, the minority party that opposed the merger but made a strong showing in the August election.
The two factions have been bickering for years about the best way to name permanent board replacements, with the ruling party usually advocating for the right of resigning board members to name their own replacements, and the out-of-power party usually arguing that it would be more democratic for replacements to be chosen from the ranks of the next-highest vote-getters. This year, the two highest non-winners for the national board were both members of Membership First, with one of them, who received 3,999 votes, falling just eight votes shy of winning a seat on the national board. Neither of them, however, was chosen as a board replacement.
Prior to the election, every candidate signed a “consent to serve” form, which states that once the nominating period had closed, “a candidate may not revoke his or her consent to serve.” The union’s rules, however, allow them to resign after they’ve been elected and requires newly elected national officers to give up their national board seats.
But Antico and Morales see a more sinister motive to the recent wave of local board resignations, questioning whether several Unite for Strength candidates truly intended to serve if elected, or were just stalking horses for their less famous, un-electable running mates.
Gabrielle Carteris, who was elected president on the Unite for Strength slate, has given up her national board seat – as she was required to do – and her local board seat – as she chose to do – to Unite for Strength co-founder William Charlton, who didn’t even run for the national board and finished a distant 76th in the local board race, from which only the top 41 vote-getters were elected. Per union rules, Carteris was able to choose him to replace her on the national board because he did win something in the recent election; he was one of the Los Angeles local’s 141 delegates elected to attend this weekend’s biennial convention, finishing 135th.
Likewise, Jane Austin, who was re-elected secretary-treasurer on the Membership First ticket, gave up her national board seat – as she was required to do – to Joe d’Angerio, who didn’t even run for the national board and finished a distant 70th in the local’s board race but won election as a convention delegate, finishing 61st.
Prior to the election, Morales put Carteris on notice that he would file a complaint with the DOL if she gave up her local board seat “to allow for another unelected Unite for Strength person to sit in the L.A. local boardroom. This must be called what it is: election fraud.” No such complaint has been filed, but sources say it’s in the works.
Antico, however, already has filed a complaint with the union, claiming that Carteris and three others – Regina King, Jon Huertas and Jason George – who gave up board seats to their unelected Unite for Strength running mates – ran “without any intention of serving in that position. These duplicitous actions seemed to be designed to use one’s celebrity status to give an unethical and unfair advantage to a political party, thus undermining the democratic process created to protect the will of the membership of SAG-AFTRA. When you run for office you must sign a consent to serve statement which all of the aforementioned candidates did. It seems that the Unite for Strength party ran high profile candidates with the intention to deceive and attain an unfair political advantage that does not reflect the will of the membership.”
The dispute has its roots in a SAG rule that once allowed the local board to name the replacement of any officer who resigned. And when Ken Howard was elected SAG president, the local board – which was then controlled by Membership First – chose Joe d’Angerio, one of its own, to replace him on the national board. That infuriated Unite for Strength, and when they gained control of the union, changed the rule to allow the winning candidate to name his or her own replacement.
Even so, there have been times when winners chose members from the opposing party as replacements, as Carteris did when she resigned her national board seat on being elected executive vice president of SAG-AFTRA, choosing David Jolliffe as her replacement, and extending an olive branch to Membership First, of which he was and is a leader.
King also has resigned her seat on the national board. She finished third in the race, just behind top vote-getters Martin Sheen and Morales, winning a four-year seat on the board. But without attending a single board meeting, she resigned and handed over her seat to fellow Unite for Strength running mate Jon Huertas, who finished 19th in the national board race – not good enough to win one of the 12 seats up for grabs.
Huertas, in turn, gave up his local board seat to a fellow Unite for Strength running mate, as did George, who won a seat on the national board (finishing sixth) and on the local board (finishing eighth), and gave up his local board seat a fellow member of Unite for Strength. They were replaced on the local board by Woody Schultz, who finished seventh out of the running, and by Ben Whitehair, who finished 27th.
And more replacements are coming to the national board if Clyde Kusatsu is reelected vice president of the Los Angeles local and Rebecca Damon is reelected national executive vice president at this weekend’s convention. They were both recently elected to the national board, and will have to give up their board seats if reelected to office at the convention. Kusatsu will be allowed to chose his own replacement, but the rules in New York require the local board there to choose Damon’s.
SAG-AFTRA said tonight that it “remains committed” to a negotiated settlement of the four-day-old actors strike against the video game industry but insists that the companies must take its demand for residuals – or “secondary payments” – seriously.
We know where our members stand, and we will put a deal in front of the SAG-AFTRA membership when we have an agreement our committee can recommend.
Their attempt to characterize their offer to make “additional compensation” payments at the time of session as equivalent to our “contingent compensation” proposal is disingenuous and misleading. These employers know full well that our issue is the creation of secondary payments that allow our members to share in the success of the most successful games. The employers’ offer purposely does not do that.
The video game companies claim they “did everything in their power” to reach an agreement with us. In fact, we accepted their offer of an upfront payment option in order to avoid triggering any secondary payments. This would have allowed them to preserve their existing compensation practices.
We simply asked to include secondary payments as an option in the agreement. This would allow other producers to avoid those upfront costs by agreeing to share their prosperity on the back end — if their game was successful. The game companies we are negotiating with adamantly refused to allow such an option to exist in the contract. That is why we find ourselves at such an impasse.
What the employers dismissively characterize as a strike over “terminology” is actually a strike over the respect and compensation that professional performers deserve. Secondary payments are what enable professional performers to survive between jobs and reflect the respect they earn for contributing their creativity, talent, voices and likenesses to the games they help bring to life.
Now, management continues to ignore the SAG-AFTRA members who lend their voices to the industry’s greatest games.
Members of SAG-AFTRA have voted overwhelmingly to give their leaders the authority to call a strike against the video game industry, which is expected to rake in more than $20 billion this year in the U.S. alone. The strike-authorization vote comes after negotiations for a new contract broke off in June. The vote doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s going to be a strike, but it gives union leaders a powerful bargaining chip when they return to the table. If future talks fail to produce an agreement, leaders would be able to call a strike without another vote. The strike authorization was approved by 96.5% of those voting, though only those who had worked under the union’s Interactive Media contract were eligible to cast ballots, and the union isn’t saying how many voted.
With this result in hand,” the union said, “the Negotiating Committee will seek to return to the bargaining table and continue to press for a fair resolution on behalf of performers working in video games.” The Interactive Media agreement expired on December 31, and bargaining sessions held in February and June failed to produce an agreement. “We’ve been through two rounds of negotiations with our employers, and they’ve rejected every proposal we’ve made,” the union said on its website. It says the companies’ proposals “are completely without precedent in the entertainment industry, and we believe they are reckless and ill-advised.”
These proposals, the union says, would allow the companies to hire their own employees to play characters in video games without having to join the union, reductions in fees that would “roll back the gains we’ve made in previous contracts” and $2,500 fines against actors who are not “attentive to the services for which they have been engaged.” The guild told its members that “this means you could be fined for almost anything: checking an incoming text, posting to your Twitter feed, even zoning out for a second.”
The companies — which include EA Games, Activision, Disney and Warner Bros as well as smaller recording studios such as Blindlight and Formosa — also are seeking onerous sanctions against agents who refuse to send their clients to certain auditions.
“Our employers propose to fine your agent $50,000-$100,000 if they don’t send you out on certain auditions, like Atmospheric Voices or One Hour-One Voice sessions,” the union told its members. “And if your agent chooses not to submit you for certain auditions, the employers want it put into contract language that SAG-AFTRA will revoke the agent’s union franchise. This would mean your agency would not be able to send you or anyone else they represent out on any union jobs, including those in animation, TV/Film, Commercials, etc.”
The union’s chief demand is for backend bonuses for voice actors that would be triggered once a game sells 2 million s.
EXCLUSIVE: Los Angeles is gearing up for a significant increase in film and TV production once the new California production tax incentives kick in next year, but one group that isn’t so excited about the coming boom is the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, a private organization that represents downtown businesses and residents. In April, the City Council asked city officials to report on the possibility of expanding filming hours in downtown. The DLANC, however, came back with its own community impact statement, saying that it “vehemently opposes” the expansion of film hours downtown.
Faced with stiff opposition from powerful downtown business interests, proposals to expand filming hours have been put on the back burner – at least for now
Most areas downtown allow filming from 6 AM to 11 PM, but in the Broadway corridor, filming is allowed from 6 AM until midnight. In the Old Bank District, however, filming is only permitted from 7 am until 10 pm, and filmmakers would like to see those hours expanded. The Old Bank District is particularly attractive to filmmakers because with its many old buildings it can easily pass for almost any city in the country.
The DLANC, however, maintains that the residents and businesses it represents already are overburdened by filmmaking and that they shouldn’t be asked to become more film friendly until production crews become more downtown-friendly.
“Filming is very disruptive to community members,” the DLANC said. “For example, production companies often prevent access to parking spaces, use invasive lighting, cause significant noise through the use of helicopters and block access to driveways or other entry points, thereby preventing reasonable access to residents’ homes.” The group also complained that film crews have turned living and working downtown into a “hostile environment,” citing cases of “intimidation by cast or crew, including the use of lewd or offensive language; threats to have parked vehicles towed from parking spaces where no production parking restrictions were placed; and use of invasive lighting without any prior notice.”
To Give you an idea of how ancient the Ol’ Dog is getting to be–when I read the headline, the first name that came to mind was Petula Clark!