A confluence of tough negotiations and legislative lobbying has secured significant gains in two new SAG-AFTRA agreements reached earlier this month covering exclusivity, which are standard provisions in television contracts that can prevent regulars market television series and unable to work for unreasonably long periods of time. time, the guild leaders said in a podcast released on Thursday.
Earlier this week, the union reached an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on new exclusivity provisions, and the SAG-AFTRA national board will meet on Saturday to approve it. The guild also reached a tentative agreement with Netflix earlier this month that includes new exclusivity terms, and members are now voting to ratify it.
SAG-AFTRA executives, however, say their lobbying for a bill that nears the finish line in the California legislature is what ultimately got the companies to act on the issue. This guild-sponsored bill – AB 437 – dubbed the Let Actors Work Act (LAW), would severely limit the exclusivity of television actors’ contracts.
“The fact is that our legislative activities gave us the leverage we needed to accomplish much of what was done in this trading on options and exclusivity,” said the national executive director of the SAG-AFTRA, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, on the Guild Podcast. on the new Netflix deal. “And sometimes I hear members ask, ‘Why do we lobby? Why do we have a legislative program? How is this really what we should be doing as a union? And I think that’s the perfect example. Here, our legislative activities align directly with our contract negotiations. These are the basic terms our members work with as interpreters in this industry. »
Speaking on the podcast about the new Netflix deal, Ray Rodriquez, the guild’s contracts manager, agreed that those negotiations have been given a big boost by pending legislation.
“The changes we got in the area of options and exclusivity – we’ve been trying to make those improvements for over 10 years in collective bargaining,” he said. “We have made extraordinary efforts; we met network presidents and studio CEOs. We brought delegations of members to talk to them about the seriousness of this problem, the urgency of resolving this problem… The ordinary process of negotiating these contracts had proved insufficient to bring us to what we had to do in the area of options and exclusivity, and it is really this legislative initiative that has given us that extra leverage and made such a visible difference.
“The way companies responded to this question while this legislation was pending is a daily difference to how they responded to us when there was no pending legislation… And so the moment came. is perfectly aligned for us to use the fact that we had this pending legislation as additional leverage to get the changes we need in this area but also the (Netflix) deal expired and it was time to renegotiate the deal we first established with Netflix in 2019.
“I just want to reiterate the legislative component of this,” added Ben Whitehair, executive vice president of SAG-AFTRA. “For me as a member, this is another example of how SAG-AFTRA is fighting on behalf of the members. We think about contract negotiations and enforcement, but this is a powerful reminder to see how the legislative work that the union is also doing is another area that can bring gains or leverage to our members. So I just want to point that out because it really helps flesh out, you know, when people say, “What exactly does SAG-AFTRA do?” – that these are some of the most essential functions: we negotiate contracts with employers; we strive for better terms and conditions for our members; we’re fighting to get those things enforced, and we’re going out and putting in legislation where necessary to do that as well.
SAG-AFTRA spent $1,097,586 on “political activities and lobbying” for legislation beneficial to its members in its last fiscal year, according to its latest financial disclosure report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. . The guild, however, does not endorse or contribute to political candidates.
According to SAG-AFTRA, major changes to exclusivity options and rules giving series regulars the right to work on other programs when not working for their Netflix series include:
• Increase exclusivity options and discounts from $40,000 per episode or per week to $65,000 per episode or per week for half-hour shows and $70,000 per episode or per week for half-hour shows. ‘one o’clock. This means many more series regulars will be protected by collective bargaining options and exclusivity terms that give them more freedom to work.
• Earned the right for one performer to be a second-position series regular on another series or a second-position lead on a miniseries each calendar year, in addition to unlimited guest star appearances and unlimited recurring guest star roles of no more than six episodes per season of a series.
• Netflix can no longer deny a regular series to appear on another program because that program is made for pay TV, a streaming service or a linear channel that has the right to air the program within 30 days.
• Netflix can no longer deny a regular series to appear on another program because another regular series appeared on the same season of that series.
• Netflix must provide a “conflict-free window” of at least three months (and, if possible, longer) after each season’s principal photography during which a series regular can devote their time to another program without having to confirm availability or schedule with Netflix.
• Timelines for exercising options have been reduced, and the ability to extend them is also reduced and made more expensive, meaning series regulars will know much sooner if Netflix will employ them for another season of the series .
• For the first time in a contract, there is now a deadline to commence the services of a series regular for a subsequent season of a series and/or to begin paying them for those services: three months after the exercise of the option, with the possibility of extending for two additional months in exchange for one-time non-recoverable costs for the following season.
Other gains in the new Netflix deal, which was overwhelmingly approved by the guild’s national board of directors, include a first-ever background coverage area in Albuquerque, New Mexico, covering all substitutes and the first 10 background actors; residuals for stunt coordinators for continuing exposure of their big budget streaming programs on Netflix, using the daytime performer minimum as the basis for the residual calculation, and establishing Juneteenth as a new holiday contractual.
As part of the deal, Netflix will also become a member of the AMPTP – the big business negotiating arm. And while the Netflix deal will survive Netflix joining the AMPTP, future negotiations with Netflix will take place concurrently with the AMPTP negotiations.
Membership voting on the new Netflix deal, which is currently underway, will close on August 31.