SAG-AFTRA Board Overwhelmingly Approves New $1 Billion-A-Year Commercials Contract, Urges Membership Ratification

SAG-AFTRA’s national board voted today to approve a tentative agreement on a new $1 billion-a-year commercials contract and to recommend its ratification to the guild’s members. The deal, which was approved by 93% of the national board members, was reached Tuesday with the Joint Policy Committee of the advertising industry. Bargaining got underway February 16 in New York.

According the the guild, the deal is valued at an additional $120 million over three years, which is effectively a 5.55% increase in wages and benefit contributions. The blended contribution rate increase in the 2022 agreement is effectively a 1.01% increase in the contribution rate to the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan.

“The agreement also establishes flat fee, per-cycle rates across broad swaths of digital and traditional media, institutes new standards for diversity and equity; and builds in enhanced protections for performers depicted nude, partially nude or as engaging in intimate acts,” the guild said, and “monetizes the exponential growth in streaming over the last two years, while ensuring appropriate compensation structures, protecting member earnings and promoting the growth of union-covered commercial work.”

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“The contracts will result in a significant increase in earnings for our members and in contributions to the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director and chief negotiator. “They also bring meaningful changes, recognizing the rapid transition to the digital future, protecting our members and keeping our contracts relevant. These contracts also underscore a broad philosophy guiding SAG-AFTRA when it comes to technology and the future: With strong organizing and unity throughout our union, we can harness technology to uplift members, both in their working lives and in the way the union provides services. I also extend my deepest appreciation to the national chair of our negotiating committee Gabrielle Carteris, our indefatigable committee members and our extraordinary staff team; without their team effort we could never have achieved this result.”

The guild said that the negotiations were “the culmination of three years of work that looked to adapt and transition to the growing prominence of digital platforms. It incorporates important structural changes so work under our contracts is viable and attractive to employers, while protecting those working in traditional media, and significantly improving provisions in the ever-expanding digital space.”

SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said that the new pact moves the commercials contract “into the digital age.” Thanking Carteris and the negotiating committee, she said that “it was seven stressful weeks of long hours and imaginative thinking outside the box in order to move the commercial contracts into the digital age. Not only will we move forward in earnings, the increase is also reflected in contributions to our benefits funds. We also made major advancements in the requirement that hair and makeup artists must have experience working on people of color, further exemplifying our relentless pursuit towards inclusion, diversity and equity for SAG-AFTRA members.

“Additionally, in this time of Step Up there is language that pays particular attention and sensitivity to performers asked to do nudity or wear revealing clothing,” added Drescher. “Importantly, the audition process is redefined and boundaries reset in greater favor of the performer who has been taken advantage of by an, up until now, unregulated self-tape audition process. A new baseline has been set on which to build. Onward and upward. Bravo to the committee for achieving this Herculean task.”

“These were challenging negotiations,” Carteris said. “We heard the membership’s interests and concerns about this contract, and remained laser-focused on achieving meaningful wage and benefits increases and modernizing the contracts with an outsized improvement in digital earnings now and in the ever-expanding digital future. I also want to recognize and thank the members of the negotiating committee and staff for their efforts and innovation. National executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and chief contracts officer and lead negotiator Ray Rodriguez were dedicated to delivering for the members and their diligent and inspired work permeates every provision in the contract.”

According to the guild, key provisions of the deal include:

* 10% increase (compounded) to scale rates in the first year of the contract.
* Establishment of flat fee, per-cycle rates across broad swaths of digital and traditional media, making the contract easier to use for employers and improving performers’ ability to track and confirm that their payments are correct.
* The new rates result in net overall gains of approximately 5.55%, worth $120 million over three years.
* New, higher-paid category for streaming platforms (e.g. Hulu, Amazon Prime, Peacock, Disney+, etc.).
* Substantial increases in benefit plan contributions–including the equivalent of an additional 1.01% contribution directed to the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan.
* Equalization of rates for Spanish-language commercials, maintaining only a separate program fee.
* Class A use payments reduced by 5% in exchange for increases in digital payment structures. The per-use rate is maintained, with $20,000/$15,000 cap per 13-week cycle, only for advertisers and agencies.
* A new Mitigation Fund that addresses performers impacted most by the use-fee caps. The proceeds of the fund will be distributed to performers whose commercials most run in Class A.
* New rules for self-taped and live-remote auditions, applying the principles that are applicable to in-person auditions. This includes protections relating to:
Repeated self-tapes
Sides 24 hours in advance
No request for unsafe activities
No multiple locations
No angle changes in a take
No make-up or styling changes
No special equipment or paid services to audition
Required waiting room and delay notifications
* New rules for nudity and intimate scenes including:
No nude auditions
Advance notice of any requirement to perform nude or partially nude, with ability to refuse work and still be paid for the day if the requirements are not met.
* Call Sheet to include SAG-AFTRA harassment reporting info.
* No use of digital doubles to evade terms of the contracts.
* First-ever contractual requirement that hair and make-up personnel must be able to work on diverse performers to be considered “qualified”
* Improvements in provisions for deaf and hard of hearing performers.
* Additional protections for minor performers.
* Improvements for singer contractors, choreographers and assistant choreographers.
* Additional compensation for background performers riding in stunt vehicles and additional examples of hazardous work, triggering additional compensation.
* Protection against requiring performers to sign unilateral, overly aggressive confidentiality agreements at auditions.
* Performers must now be told at the time of audition if the producer will be applying any waivers.
* Revised statute of limitation language that avoids performers having to file claims for unpaid use until after the commercial is dead.

The national referendum to ratify the Commercials Contracts will be conducted via an online vote. Traditional paper ballots will also be available by request. Members who are eligible to vote will receive a postcard with ballot instructions explaining how to vote electronically or how to request a paper ballot. The postcard will be mailed to members on or about April 14. Ratification votes received by the voting deadline of 5 p.m. PT on May 5 will be tabulated on the same day.

Informational meetings for members across the country to discuss the tentative agreement will take place online on April 19 and April 26. Information about the agreement will also be posted online prior to the balloting period.

The current contracts remain in effect during the member ratification process. Provisions covering working conditions are effective 30 days after ratification with rate increases effective retroactive to April 1, 2022. The new structure becomes effective June 1, 2022.

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