2021 Letter to SAG-AFTRA Members

  • we built a community of over a hundred producing assistants for our Conservatory classes to better support our teachers and create a more professional environment,
  • created a free self-taping program that served hundreds of members,
  • brought in dozens of high profile guest instructors,
  • set up member-run social media accounts (@laconservatory) and a website for the LA Conservatory (losangelesconservatory.com) to better serve and connect our 3,000 Conservatory members,
  • started laying the foundation for our own SAG-AFTRA film festival & expo,
  • established a first-ever Table Reads Subcommittee of the LA Local to produce table reads with the WGA, The Black List, Coverfly, and others,
  • set up a workgroup to host our own, free agent, manager, and casting director showcases, kicking things off with a monologue-coaching workshop in the winter of 2019 with a final performance attended by DGA, WGA, and CSA members,
  • created a list of every self-taping studio in town and were about to begin negotiating union member discounts,
  • and started laying the groundwork for a union service directory to help people hire our members in their side hustles.
  1. I feel so protected, appreciated, and supported by the members of our Local for my work.
  2. I’m not hired by my fellow SAG-AFTRA members. I’m hired as an actor by DGA and WGA members, and called in for auditions by CSA, CCDA, and Teamsters casting directors.
  3. I live and work in Los Angeles, where there are thousands of directors, producers, and casting directors to work with.
  1. That the extra time would be used to prepare for the negotiations.
  1. Increasing the employer pension & health contribution caps.
  2. Eliminate “crediting:” the advanced payment of residuals in initial compensation.
  3. Increase streaming new media residuals for AVOD (ad-supported video on demand) and SVOD (subscription video on demand).
  4. Eliminate unfair Options & Exclusivity contracts preventing members from working.
  • no raising of the pension and health contribution caps,
  • no limits on advanced payment of residuals,
  • no elimination of unfair options & exclusivity contracts,
  • and no gains in AVOD.
  1. Should a union President ever publicly state to the industry that our members do not have the will to fight for better terms?
  2. Does that sound like an Executive Producer who was paid almost a half million dollars the year before by a top AMPTP network that may have helped her win re-election?
  • eliminating Plan II,
  • raising the qualifying threshold to $25,950, an $8,000, or 45% increase from the 2020 Plan II qualifying threshold of $18,040,
  • Increasing qualifying days from 86 to 100,
  • raising premiums,
  • requiring spouses to switch to their employer’s health plans if available, as their primary plan,
  • eliminating qualifying with age and service,
  • and eliminating earned lifetime secondary senior coverage.
  1. Legal Options — through lawsuits and injunctions, but those are not quick fixes.
  2. Public Pressure — member feedback, press, etc.
  3. Member Education — making sure members know how the health plan works, how we got here, and how we can get it back. Not an immediate fix but perhaps faster than lawsuits.
  • Advocate for tax incentives to keep productions in the USA and make them union.
  • Lobby congress to exempt SAG-AFTRA from federal Fi-Core laws.
  • Repeal state right-to-work laws, requiring union membership to work union jobs.
  • Regulate talent managers and talent agencies in every state.
  • Restore the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan by reversing all 2021 changes.
  • Negotiate to decrease or eliminate premiums and improve plan benefits.
  • No reductions of plan without negotiations. If we need to negotiate to fund the plan, they need to negotiate to reduce the plan. Our position should be that the employers are responsible for keeping the plan adequately funded without any reduction of benefits.
  • Investigate the viability of a basic health plan tier open to all members regardless of earnings.
  • Replace the current union-side trustees of the Health Plan for their failure to protect the plan.
  • Require trustees to share key plan information with negotiating committees to ensure they can effectively assess the state of the health plan ahead of negotiations.
  • Investigate the choice of Via Benefits as the vendor for health insurance brokerage, when MPTF and TAF’s EHIS is a free, viable alternative.
  • Investigate the claims that members are being improperly billed for services and products not necessary, and then told to ignore it by Plan representatives.
  • Fix the Split Earnings issue between the two pension plans to help more members qualify for retirement benefits.
  • Restore pension equity with staff so members and staff enjoy the same pension benefits.
  • Re-establish an interguild council with regular meetings of leaders from all the entertainment unions, guilds, and associations, starting with DGA, WGA, IATSE, and Teamsters.
  • Support the Casting Society of America’s (CSA) efforts to secure an Academy Award category.
  • Renegotiate an Agency Franchise Agreement with the Association of Talent Agents (ATA).
  • Institute a training program with the Producers Guild of America (PGA) to better educate our members and reduce the amount of violations and claims.
  • Work with SAG Indie to create better tools to educate and support our employers.
  • Establish clarity between the union and the SAG-AFTRA Foundation to avoid duplication of programs, and ensure quality control over any member education programming.
  • Building equity and saving money by owning our own buildings instead of renting them.
  • Publish an annual financial report every year to the membership for their review, as does Actors Equity Association (AEA) and the WGA.
  • Eliminating the crippling political partisan infighting within our union’s leadership.
  • Eliminate the culture of intimidation, retaliation and fear that has created an unsafe environment for members to advocate for themselves and others. Voices of critique or dissent must be protected and valued instead of punished.
  • Improve our staff customer service so members and employers see our union as a great partner instead of an impediment or adversary when trying to get the right information and creating work.
  • Refocus the union to serve all members, not just the highest profile and earners.
  • Truth and transparency in all SAG-AFTRA communications
  • Treat our members like adults who can handle complex information and engage in difficult conversations.
  • Establish standardized, high-quality member orientations in all Locals to educate members and pre-members about SAG-AFTRA and their duties and opportunities as members.
  • Establish high quality, nationwide Conservatory craft education programming, available for and open to members of all Locals.
  • Invest in union literacy and contract educational videos and make them available on the union’s website and free-to-access video streaming platforms.
  • Automate enforcement of contract provisions that if enforced by a member would potentially subject them to retaliation.
  • Strictly enforce contract provisions that cannot be automated.
  • Create a culture where productions are strongly incentivized to not violate the contract.
  • Create penalties for contract violations claims to dissuade productions from treating valid claims like no-interest loans.
  • Resume enforcement of CBA Schedule A, Section 15(B) entitling members to pay for auditions or self tapes if they were asked to prepare work and are not hired.
  • Resume enforcement of CBA Section 47(B) requiring AMPTP-employed casting directors and the CSA to jointly sponsor and attend showcases to provide our members with access to casting.
  • Establish a negotiation culture that does not give away anything gained to employers, only negotiates for better pay, benefits, and working conditions.
  • Reject the concept and practice of acceding to “pattern bargaining”.
  • Index all rates contained in contracts to a fraction of scale, preventing future use of negotiating capital for updating individual numbers.
  • Negotiate for automatic cost of living increases into every contact.
  • Negotiating committees must have at least one member representing each member category affected by the contact.
  • Negotiating committee members must have work experience in the jurisdiction of the contract being negotiated.
  • Empower negotiating committees with a strike authorization before they begin negotiations.
  • Address the unauthorized use of a member’s likeness or voice in emerging technologies such as voice licensing, deep fakes, AI and and video dubbing, and digital avatars.
  • Increase the Employer Pension and Health Contribution Caps from current rates to those adjusted for inflation since 1982 for TV and 2005 for film.
  • Eliminate unfair options and exclusivity agreements that prevent members from working.
  • No exclusivity for recurring guest stars, short-order series, or fractional series performers.
  • Prohibit the practice of advanced payment of residuals in initial compensation.
  • Eliminate or redefine the concept of Producers Base to protect our travel provisions.
  • Restore practice of Portal to Portal for rest periods, travel, and work time.
  • Coverage of under 20 minute new media content.
  • Single-parent childcare accommodation for primary caregivers.
  • Theatrical exhibition residuals above certain revenue thresholds for features.
  • Require that either hardcopies or electronic copies of the relevant contracts be accessible or available at all W&W meetings.
  • Any discounting of scale rates to establish jurisdiction in a new market or medium must come with an automatic revert clause back to scale when the market matures by reaching certain mutually accepted milestones.
  • Prohibit staff from negotiating contracts without member involvement and oversight.
  • Strictly abide by the constitutional requirement that all contracts that are industry wide and/or affect a significant portion of the membership should go before the membership for ratification.
  • Residuals: Increase new media residuals by:
  • Ensuring the highest possible Total Actual Compensation (TAC)
  • increasing our percentage of Distributors Gross Receipts.
  • make P&H contributions payable on top, not inclusive of DGR %.
  • eliminate discount for foreign use.
  • Self-monitor, audit, and/or use technology (like blockchain) to encode our residuals formulas directly into digital media files to trigger automatic payments upon exhibition and ensure employers cannot escape from their residuals payments obligations.
  • Consider a different formula for calculating streaming residuals considering our percentages of DGR are split between far more individuals than those of DGA or WGA members.
  • Lower the threshold that triggers a contract Minority Report to 25% and make it mandatory not optional if that threshold is met and the minority is willing.
  • Anything less than scale rate is a deferment or an investment in the project, to be paid in full when the project generates sufficient revenue.
  • Add LGTBQ+ to the diversity incentive, where applicable.
  • Make all Local Presidents the or one of the National Board Members from their Local.
  • LA Local Constitutional change of the current replacement policy to Board decision (rejected by the current national board majority because of politics) or next highest vote getter.
  • Constitutional Reform that all National Vice Presidents must have at least been elected as Convention Delegates, if not Local or National Board Members, in the current election, in order to be eligible to serve.
  • Constitutional Reform that all uncontested National Board seats serve 2 year terms, no longer “deemed elected.”
  • Make Convention virtual moving forward, to save the union the expense.
  • Raise the Membership Dues Cap from $500,000 to $1,000,000
  • Provide elected Convention Delegates guidelines for proper resolution writing language so fewer resolutions are ruled out of order, wasting everyone’s time.
  • Changing the term of elected Convention Delegates to 4 years instead of 2 years, staggering their elections so that only half are voted in every two years.
  • Explore changing the initiation fee based on the member category for other categories besides broadcasters, ie. members working solely background would pay less until they worked their first principal contract.
  • Offer a payment plan of 12 months for initiation fees with full membership rights.
  • Limit the number of Local or National Committees that any one member can be seated on or Chair.
  • All National Committees should initially be seated with the Chairs or Co-Chairs of all corresponding Local Committees, assuming the member agrees.
  • Establish a Benefit Plans National Committee to interface with the trustees of the plans and report back to the National Board regularly.
  • No members may serve on a negotiating committee if they are trustees of one of the benefit plans or are producers or employees of productions for the employers being negotiating against.
  • Change our voting system to Approval Voting, eliminating the “spoiler effect” and enabling members to vote for everyone they support without hurting the chances of electing anyone else.
  • Reduce the high costs of sending at least one campaign email to provide independent candidates with a more level playing field than those who form or run on slates who share expenses or group fundraise.
  • Qualified Leadership: Establish a minimum threshold of required work experience in order to serve as Local or National Board Members or Officers.
  • Automatic removal of absentee board members.
  • Provide members with ability to contact their Local and National Leadership via @sagaftra.org email accounts for each Local and National Board Member or Officer.
  • Track status of all Convention and Local Membership meeting resolutions and non-confidential board motions on the website so members can see where they are in the process and the eventual resolution.
  • Establish the practice of sending staff-prepared detailed minutes of Local and National Board meeting reports to the membership.
  • For all non-confidential topics in Board Meetings, record and publish the motions and how each board member voted.
  • Create an online Petition function on the sagaftra.org website so members can start official petitions for redress of grievances and solicit for the required signatures online.
  • Update internal technologies to streamline workflows and increase the efficiency of the organization.
  • Establish a policy regarding the “Local Hire” and “Modified Local Hire” practice to prevent violations of the travel, lodging, and per diem provisions in our contracts.
  • Invest in more IT staff to monitor stay and ahead of changing and emerging technologies that could help or hurt our members.
  • Member disciplinary fines should go to the member victimized, if there is one, not the union’s general fund.
  • Provide more financial and governance autonomy to all our Locals, so they can invest in organizing, and programming, and are incentivized to grow their locals and make a continuously better impact on the lives and careers of their members.
  • Reopen all closed Local physical locations and offices so each Local has a meeting place for members and staff, and their programming.
  • Hire more Local staff to organize work, increase Local membership, lobby city, state, and federal government, and provide more member services to members.
  • Free live and remote self-taping services.
  • Make all current deals and discounts from all four sources; SAG-AFTRA Local, SAG-AFTRA National, Abenity, and UnionPlus easily searchable on the SAG-AFTRA website and mobile app.
  • Negotiate additional discounts wherever possible to save our members money on all costs of living and working as a performer.
  • CSA Classes: Fund and engage with the CSA’s Artist Development Committee to provide casting education to members.
  • WGA Table Reads: expand the LA Local Table Reads program with the WGA across all Locals.
  • Provide free, union-produced Casting, Agent, and Manager Showcases to all members.
  • Provide clear instructions and resources online to assist members with converting nonunion jobs to union.
  • Investigate and address the use of exclusionary and unofficial workgroups bypassing the Local and National Boards and Committees in order to rush the establishment of a monopoly for Intimacy Professionals Association (IPA) to set standards for the accreditation of training institutions and criteria for inclusion in the union-sanctioned registry of ICs, and the conflict of interest for the outside consultant leading the process having glaring conflicts of interest that created an unsafe environment for the workgroup members to offer their input.
  • Mandate Intimacy Coordinators on every set where a nudity and/or simulated sex rider has been negotiated under union contracts, with concrete penalties for non-compliance.
  • Create a path to SAG-AFTRA membership for IC’s.
  • Member-to-member complaints: A third-party impartial investigative team should be engaged whenever an official complaint is lodged.
  • Constitutional Reform to reinstitute language making “conduct unbecoming” an offense.
  • Develop ongoing educational seminars for members where we clearly define and discuss sexual harassment, sexual assault, consent and coercion. Seminars would provide concrete steps and options for reporting sexual misconduct as well as raise awareness around resources available to victims, and empower members with education as to what their current rights are around shooting nude, simulated sex, and intimate scenes.
  • Trauma training should be made available to leadership, union members and staff and required for all involved in the reporting process; including intake, the Disciplinary Committee members and adjudicators.
  • Invite filmmakers and other artists working with sexual harassment themes to present to the membership to raise awareness and survivor empathy.
  • At the start of production, require an all cast, crew and production safety meeting regarding workplace harassment. In conjunction with the safety meeting, producers would be required to give performers a document that both defines workplace sexual harassment and gives performers 4 choices to whom they may report if an incident occurs during production. This document would be presented to all to sign and acknowledge at the start of their employment.These meetings are currently mandated in many states.
  • Require posting and/or handouts outlining SAG-AFTRA”s Code of Conduct listing specific negotiated penalties for infractions against this Code..
  • Institute a penalty for not giving performers 48 hour advance notice to review and negotiate nudity riders.
  • Limit access to monitors and securely hold all cell phones off set during filming.
  • SAG-AFTRA should sponsor a survey of the industry on child sexual abuse in conjunction with the national think tank ChildUSA. We continue to meet with production representatives to discuss other means with which to reform current production practices regarding children.
  • Require and enforce background checks of anyone working with minors. A child performer should never be left alone with an adult on set or off.
  • Require disclosure to the parents of minors if they will be working with a convicted child abuser or sexual predator.
  • Elimination of group discounts for hiring dancers
  • Cover Choreographers or establish Dance Coordinators in the same way we cover Stunt Coordinators or Vocal Contractors and enable them to assess sets for safety and stipends.
  • Educate producers on the realities of dance work with regards to safety, stamina, and expertise.
  • Address the use of Network Code Contracts instead of SAG TV Contracts in order to pay dancers less.
  • Negotiate billing credits for Dancers and Choreographers.
  • Dancers should get double pay when both acting and dancing.
  • Establish a culture of respect for Dancers as highly skilled OCPs.
  • Pass a national board request to the pension plans to allow Dancers to take their pension penalty-free at 55.
  • Organize currently non-covered work under union contracts, including audiobooks, non-broadcast corporate and e-learning, etc.
  • Covered audiobook work should trigger the Taft-Hartley process so nonunion performers cannot work an unlimited number of union jobs and potentially qualify for benefits without joining.
  • Make the ease of hiring union VO talent competitive with nonunion standard practice.
  • Address the loophole that gives Fi-Core performers an advantage in working for clients who want the same voice for both their union and nonunion work.
  • Correct union voiceover rates that are lower than nonunion industry standard, such as jobs that pay per finished minute, as opposed to an hourly rate.
  • Negotiate residuals for video game work.
  • Add contract language “a member must be employed when…” to prevent AI voiceover technology from displacing members’ jobs.
  • Establish Nationwide Coverage.
  • Establish a LA Local and National Board Seat for Background Leadership.
  • Establish a more respectful culture for the way Background are treated on set.
  • Find a more equitable system for background vouchers given on set to prevent abusive behavior.
  • Explore the creation of a replacement for for-profit calling services and background casting companies to connect members with work, like a union hiring hall.
  • Stand Ins performing off-camera dialogue with principals to be upgraded to OCPs or at least paid principal scale.
  • Pass a national board request to the Pension Plans to allow Stunt Performers to take their pension penalty-free at 55.
  • Eliminate schedule changes and money breaks that take away cumulative weekly overtime.
  • Provide regular “Stunt Hustle” events where Stunt Coordinators and Performers can connect in an optimal environment.
  • Eliminate the use by production of “Rehearsal Contracts”
  • Performance Capture/Motion Capture
  • Negotiate coverage into TV/Theatrical CBA and Interactive/Video Games.
  • Require a Stunt Coordinator if a Stunt Performer is doing stunts.
  • Address the fact that the MoCap rate for 8 hours is the same as VO for 4 hours.
  • Develop our own, cutting-edge, free online casting database and platform to replace ActorsAccess, CastingNetworks, CastingFrontiers, and all other for-profit services that charge our members for access to union work.
  • Negotiate with the existing OCS’ to ensure security of members’ data, and data-sharing for the enforcement of union contracts and rules.
  • Institute Industry Standard Guidelines for Self Taping to protect members from overly burdensome and discriminatory self taping requirements, and protect the value of their time.
  • Define billing in the contract:
  • Co-Star/Under 5: under 5 lines or under 3 days
  • Guest Star/Supporting: anything 5 lines or more and 3 days or more. One day guest stars paid at triple scale
  • Series Regular/Lead: fractional and AEP performers
  • Right of consultation for series performers for brand or product placement.
  • Investigate the viability of an in-house talent agency analogue that represents members commission-free.
  • Prohibition on serious alterations to a performer’s appearance on set without prior negotiation before signing, or a default bump or penalty ($2,000) if done after signing or on set.
  • Require productions to make every effort to audition and consider members with disabilities for disabled character roles.
  • We have not successfully negotiated a raise in mileage compensation in over 40 years. It is currently $0.30 per mile. Gas in 1980 was $1.19 per gallon.
  • Meal penalties have not been raised in the more than 60 years from the time they were first introduced. If we had kept up with inflation, meal penalties would start at $222 for the first half-hour today.
  • Investigate and address the improper use of variety show contracts instead of TV contracts.
  • Ensure guardians have line of sight or monitors and sound of their kids on camera, in hair & makeup or rehearsals.
  • Provide parents with chairs and food on set.
  • Prohibit asking children to do stunts without prior notice that either the child or the parent is uncomfortable with.
  • Reform on set education, particularly ensuring studio teaching have proper credentials, their name is available prior to call time and listed on the call sheet, parents have input in long-term cases, and require union teachers for our members.
  • Establish Nationwide Coverage for Broadcasters
  • Bring post-production audio work back to the US.

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Actor, Union Leader, Educator, Casting pro, Writer, and Technologist. https://linktr.ee/shaan_sharma

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Shaan Sharma

Shaan Sharma

Actor, Union Leader, Educator, Casting pro, Writer, and Technologist. https://linktr.ee/shaan_sharma

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