(See also the SAG/AFTRA article in this issue of Allegro.)
As this column is written, the SAG/AFTRA strike against the advertising industry is entering its tenth week. The issue in dispute concerns the basic structure of actors’ pay for radio and television jingles, centered on payment for residuals. The union is seeking to expand the current network formula of payment for each play to the cable (and the internet) industry. Advertisers wish to move in the opposite direction and apply the cable/cycle formula to the networks. Mediators have been called into the negotiations but, as of this writing, no movement has taken place.
Fully aware that an industry victory here could lead to a direct attack on the AFM at the 2001 jingle negotiations, Bill Dennison, Recording Business Rep Dave Sheldon and I met with the leadership of SAG on May 26 to discuss ways in which Local 802 could offer strike support. The results of that meeting were communicated in the following memo to Local 802 recording musicians:
“As you know, the members of SAG/AFTRA are on strike against the advertising industry. The central issue in this fight is the pay structure contained in the current SAG/AFTRA agreement – specifically the residual payment provision, which is under major attack from industry.
“It is obvious to those of us who have been following the events of this negotiation that the outcome will affect the 2001 AFM negotiations with these companies in fundamental ways. In the truest sense of the term, “SAG/AFTRA’s fight is our fight.” The strike language in the AFM agreement prevents the union from instructing you to honor the SAG/AFTRA picket lines. However, the AFM has issued the following statement:
The AFM Television and Radio Commercial Announcements Agreement contains no language that would prohibit AFM members from declining work under the agreement based upon a feeling of sympathy or support for our sister unions and its members during their current strike action.
This is a personal decision to be made by each individual.
However, if a member is requested to perform work that would normally be under the jurisdiction of SAG or AFTRA, please consider the fact that SAG and AFTRA are fighting for many of the issues that we will soon be facing in future negotiations. We strongly urge him/her in those situations to decline the work and support our sister unions. Indeed, it may well be the case that in those circumstances, SAG or AFTRA will view such a person as performing struck work.
“I would only add that, when faced with a picket line situation, you are within your rights to consider your own personal safety when making the decision.
“In order to support SAG/AFTRA’s efforts in this dispute, I am asking that any musicians called for engagements that might involve a camera shoot inform Local 802 of the specifics so that we can keep SAG/AFTRA accurately informed about events in the field. Furthermore, any musician accepting work that subsequently becomes the target of SAG/AFTRA picketing activities and who refuses to cross the union’s picket lines will be eligible for Local 802 strike benefits in the amount of $100.”
I then wrote SAG’s Associate National Executive Director, John Mc Guire, to inform him of our action:
“On behalf of the 10,000 members of Local 802, AFM, let me state our complete and unequivocal support of SAG/AFTRA in its current battle with the advertising industry. We recognize that the issues on your negotiating table will, with unsurprising consistency, appear next year at the AFM’s negotiations and, therefore, we see your fight as ours in the truest sense of the phrase.
“In order to give that statement some concrete meaning, we contacted Local 802 “jingle” musicians and asked that they notify Local 802 when called for “sideline” engagements. Any information we receive will be forwarded to you. In addition, we have made strike benefits available to musicians refusing to cross SAG/AFTRA picket lines. As I said at our meeting last week, we will help in any way we can; you have only to ask.”
Please communicate any information you may have regarding commercial shoots to either Bill Dennison in my office or Jay Schaffner or Dave Sheldon in the Recording Department. It is essential that we show active solidarity with SAG/AFTRA in this dispute.
THE GHOST OF MAX ARONS
This month’s Musician’s Voice contains a letter from Local 802 member and former candidate for president of the local Murray Rothstein, commenting on a recent change in the bylaws.
For those of you who may have missed it – and I fear far too many did – this modification removed from the bylaws the provision that allowed for “slate” listings on the election ballot. The working musician/reform movement of the 1950s and ’60s, led by John Glasel and Murray Rothstein, among others, fought a long, hard battle – against an administration made up of men who understood that ignorance was their best ally – to assure that voters had the necessary information at the time they needed it most: when they were actually voting. That measure, along with the elimination of the mail ballot and the opening up of board positions to working musicians, allowed the administration of Local 802 to be placed in the hands of its working musicians. One of those cornerstone reforms has now been wiped away by a vote of less than 1 percent of the membership.
The measure enacted on June 20 is reactionary by definition and does a disservice to the concept of an enlightened electorate. It should be overturned as soon after the December election as feasible.