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Why I'm Running For The SAG-AFTRA Presidency

08/14/2017 13:31 EDT
Michael Tran via Getty Images

I am concerned about the financial future of our union and the future prospects for our performers, both young and old, to make a living. That is why I am running for the position of SAG-AFTRA National President in the upcoming election, and I am committed to restoring our union’s strength, so that our older members can eventually retire with the assurance that the pension which they have contributed to will be paid to them.

There are numerous areas of concern with the current contract and the proposed contract.  Every member of the Union should have representation on the National Board.  The pay for Background Actors is very close to what it was 40 years ago, and the vehicle reimbursement has not gone up in 30 years.  We are being reimbursed $.34 per mile, while the federal rate is $.535 per mile.  Dancers and  voice over artists asked for better representation on set with more rest time, and got nothing. Singers and Radio Announcers got nothing.

Our pension is currently funded at 80.08%, less than 1% from being underfunded. With the monetary rollbacks in the proposed contract, the plan will soon be in the endangered zone with the market at all-time highs.  When the market corrects, and it surely will, our pension could be in serious trouble.

The staff of SAG-AFTRA currently receives over double the pension cap that the members do ― $210k for the staff, and only $96k for the actors who paid for it. This evidences lack of fiduciary duty. SAG-AFTRA is a member run entity, and currently its business model is being run for the benefit of the staff. The control of SAG-AFTRA must return to the membership where it rightfully belongs.

The increase of 2.5% the first year, 3.0% the second year, and 3.0% for the third year do not keep up with the cost of inflation. The increase in food prices alone over the previous twelve months is 7% according to the FAO FOOD PRICE INDEX.

Marvel, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon may all have licensing agreements for shows not yet in production with predated licensing agreements, and can grandfather in years of content at subpar rates, making the proposed contract worthless.

The number one concern of performers at the wages and working conditions meetings was cable TV, yet union negotiators stated “cable is dead.” In fact, 45% of performers’ work is garnered from cable TV.  

The technology implemented at SAG-AFTRA is nonexistent.  In today’s age, we can livestream the meetings so that all members can participate. We still need to produce our social security numbers and personal data on every job, when this can be done with the swipe of a SAG-AFTRA card.  The entire system must be revamped with tools that can track content across all media platforms and create a national membership portal that will transform I-Actor into a 21st century one stop shop for casting and other bankable marketing ventures.  

Unclaimed residual problem is unacceptable.  How is it our staff can find your address for your dues and to send you voter cards, yet cannot find your address to mail you “lost residuals”?

Stunt Coordinators will receive only a 5% increase in the proposed contract.  They have not received an increase in the past 12 years (with the exception of a standard cost of living increase).  Television stunt coordinators receive a minute portion of a very tiny residual pool compared to the maximum residuals ($3450 per episode) of the actors they supervise.  The stunt coordinators’ turnaround  is unsafe and endangers all crew members, stunt performers, actors, and pedestrians

There currently is no safety language written into our collective bargaining agreement, and it is not mandatory to have an ambulance on the set when action is being performed.  This is just plain negligence by the production entities.  

There are also huge rollbacks in regard to travel on overnight locations for television shows, ensuring longer hours for less money.  These losses are approximately $3,700 per week for each performer if they were to work the same on set hours.  This will add up to millions of dollars lost over the next three years affecting our pension, and our members’ ability to qualify for medical insurance. The travel day has been reduced in the proposed contract to $500.00, which is a reduction from the $695.80 in the current contract.

Portal to Portal is the travel time to and from your place of lodging while on an overnight location to the set and Actors will now be required to provide their own transportation and not be paid for that time.

Producers Base, the place the Producers set up as their principal place of photography, currently refers to the Los Angeles area.  In the proposed contract, the Producers Base shall include other cities so that   you will be on the clock only from the time you arrive on set until your set dismissal with a small flat fee for your  travel day to/from anywhere in the world.  

The provisions in the current contract have been in full force for the last 50 years, and yet SAG-AFTRA is selling this contract by deceptively stating that the “Travel Provisions” never existed in our collective bargaining agreement.

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