On August 7, 2017, SAG-AFTRA announced that a majority of its affected members has ratified the tentative 2017 theatrical agreement it struck on July 4th with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). This new three-year contract will take over for the contract that expired on June 30, 2017, whose terms were governing work in the period before ratification.
Retroactive to July 1, 2017, this new collective bargaining agreement will govern the work of SAG-AFTRA’s members in movies and dramatic television. The new agreement’s terms and rates will not go into effect until SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP draft and release a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), a document that lays out the actual wording of the terms in the new agreement.
After the MOA is released, stand-ins who worked after June 30, 2017, under the rates of that contract, will start to see in the mail retroactive payments to bring their payments during the period up to the levels negotiated in the agreement. Retroactive payments will be mailed, of course, only if productions were not already “optimistically” paying the new rates, as was the case with at least one known production and potentially others.
Despite a visible “#VoteNo” campaign on social media both by current candidates for several SAG-AFTRA officer seats and by members alike, the union’s majority of members working under the theatrical agreement surmounted the #VoteNo campaign to ratify the tentative agreement.
In the 2017 vote, 15.33% voted of approximately 140,000 affected members — roughly 21,462 members.
- 75.79% voted “yes” to ratify (approximately 16,266 members)
- 24.21% voted “no” on ratification (approximately 5,196 members)
Looking at the above figures, it took only 10,732 SAG-AFTRA members to constitute a majority of voters to ratify the agreement.
More brutally, it took only 5,197 SAG-AFTRA members to overcome the number of “no” votes and achieve majority. Put that way, the referendum required just 3.7% of affected SAG-AFTRA members to vote “yes” in order to get this tentative agreement ratified to bind 100% of SAG-AFTRA members to its terms.
Comparison with 2014 Vote Tallies
Despite SAG-AFTRA saying in their press releases for both 2017 and 2014 that their members “voted overwhelmingly to approve” each tentative agreement, the yes-to-no margin was slimmer in 2017 than during the 2014 vote on the theatrical agreement,
As recently reported on Stand-In Central, in the 2014 ratification vote 16% of approximately 137,000 members voted — roughly 21,920 members. That’s approximately 458 more members than in 2017. Of those 21,920 members:
- 92.12% voted “yes” to ratify (approximately 20,193 members)
- 7.88% voted “no” on ratification (approximately 1,727 members)
In 2014 there was an 84.24% difference between the yes and no votes. But in 2017, the difference between yes and no votes was only 51.58%, constituting a dramatically slimmer margin than in 2017. In other words, the ratification by members in 2017 was visibly less “overwhelming” than in 2014.
All in all, about 9 out of 10 members voted for the theatrical agreement in 2014, but in 2017 only 3 out of four members voted for it. There were approximately 3,469 more no votes in 2017 than in 2014, even though there were approximately 458 fewer voters in 2017.
Contract Wording Still to Be Determined
SAG-AFTRA members voted in their referendum not on the actual new contract language that sets their contract in stone, but instead on a “summary” of agreed-upon terms. According to SAG-AFTRA’s 2017 TV/Theatrical Contracts Referendum microsite that addressed the question “Why can’t I see the actual contract language before I vote?,” SAG-AFTRA writes:
It takes at least several weeks, and often longer, to draft and agree upon the language of a memorandum of agreement, which will then be “codified” by adding the agreed-upon provisions into the contract books themselves along with all the conforming changes made necessary by the addition of new language. The entire process can be very time consuming, depending on how easily the parties are able to agree upon the new language and required changes, and it is worth taking the time to make sure that the language correctly reflects everything we bargained for. That is why nearly every ratification vote that we conduct is done on the basis of a summary.
Of particular concern to Stand-In Central is the exact wording in the forthcoming 2017 MOA with respect to photo doubles in the New York Zone, covered under Schedule X, Part 2, of the 2005 Basic Agreement. The summary in the referendum words the agreed-upon terms in this way:
Photo doubles working under Schedules X-I and X-II will now receive at least the stand-in rate, an upfront increase of nearly 17%.
What the passage from the summary does not clarify is how it achieved the calculation of a 17% increase, which we contested in this post. By our calculations, increasing the rate photo doubles make to the rate stand-ins make does not show a “17% increase” in the rate photo doubles make, but instead an increase of 12.6%-12.9%.
Aside from the union’s questioned calculation, under Schedule X, Part 2, the rate for stand-ins who also photo-double on the same day is calculated using a formula whose past interpretation is currently under dispute (as detailed recently in this post on Stand-In Central). Despite a case that stand-ins who photo-double in the New York Zone should receive a $27 adjustment for their photo-double work as calculated using the codified formula for figuring photo-double adjustments, the union has cited past practice in permitting only a $10 adjustment when stand-ins photo-double.
The question is how the newly ratified agreement’s eventual wording might impact this formula — as well as its interpretation. If SAG-AFTRA does away with the formula for calculating the photo-double rate for stand-ins and/or if SAG-AFTRA does not award stand-ins who photo-double at least “an upfront increase of nearly 17%,” the question becomes whether “the language correctly reflects everything [SAG-AFTRA] bargained for.” Given that the union won this gain for photo doubles, shouldn’t stand-ins also receive an “increase of nearly 17%” when photo-doubling?
In other words, if a stand-in photo-doubles and is not paid an “increase of nearly 17%,” the case would be that stand-ins are not being awarded that for which SAG-AFTRA bargained and that which affected SAG-AFTRA members ratified.
A future post on Stand-In Central will include pay rates for stand-ins under the 2017 theatrical agreement, as well as any updates to the questions brought up in the above post or any wording from the 2017 Memorandum of Agreement should it be published online.
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Are you happy with the results of the vote on 2017’s theatrical agreement? What questions do you continue to have? Post your thoughts in the comments below!