The Network Television Code (aka “Netcode”) is the major contract that covers SAG-AFTRA members in promos, variety shows, soap operas, talk shows, game shows, etc.

If you are a SAG-AFTRA member, very likely you have received in recent days a slew of mail urging you to vote yes on SAG-AFTRA’s proposed Network Television Code referendum.

Stand-ins on these productions get paid hourly rather than daily. Many of these stand-ins have only a two-hour minimum, so they can’t take home even a decent paycheck for their work, even while working as professionals among other unionized professionals in the crew, who undoubtedly have more comfortable and rewarding rates.

While it might seem noble to vote how SAG-AFTRA is telling you to, note that you send a message to the union and other members on how acceptable you find the wages and working conditions for fellow SAG-AFTRA members and perhaps yourself when working as a stand-in on a Netcode job.

  • If you vote yes, you harm wages and working conditions for SAG-AFTRA stand-ins.
  • If you vote NO, you get SAG-AFTRA back into negotiations in order to secure better wages and working conditions for SAG-AFTRA stand-ins.

The deadline for casting your vote is this Thursday, August 16, 2018. You can cast your vote online here.

Do your part to tell the union to protect SAG-AFTRA stand-ins, and to bargain better for their wages and working conditions.  Vote NO.

Here are more reasons why Stand-In Central says you should vote NO.

SAG-AFTRA Hasn’t Listened to Its Stand-Ins’ Wage Needs in Years

In this recent post as well as this recent post, not to mention in a post earlier this year, Stand-In Central sounded alarms about Netcode stand-ins and their negotiated rates.

Stand-ins under the Netcode are among the most economically disadvantaged SAG-AFTRA members. Rather than a daily rate (payment for 8 hours), stand-ins under the Netcode make merely an hourly rate.

To add insult to injury, many stand-ins under the Netcode only have a two-hour minimum. That means they can show up to work, surprisingly wrap after two hours, and receive a paycheck for just two hours of work rather than eight hours. Neither the Television & Theatrical contract nor the Commercials contract pays stand-ins hourly — stand-ins under those contracts have daily rates.

Stand-ins, when being hired, do not know if they will work two hours, or twelve hours, or anywhere in between. The lack of a guaranteed daily rate makes it economically a gamble to accept Netcode stand-in work.

Netcode stand-ins are usually unable to book additional union work that day because of their commitment to the Netcode stand-in job. So the chances of earning more money on a day of accepting stand-in work under a Netcode contract are slim.

SAG-AFTRA has done nothing in two cycles of negotiations to change that situation for Netcode stand-ins. Their Wages & Working Conditions Committees have received emails on the issues but have not effected economic change for stand-ins. The union continues to leave Netcode stand-ins economically disadvantaged and underprotected in the current Netcode referendum.

What SAG-AFTRA Is Saying It Got Stand-Ins

What SAG-AFTRA gained for stand-ins in the current Netcode proposal is paltry.

Only Pattern Increases in Stand-In Rates

Despite saying it negotiated an “11.5 percent increase” in the rates for Netcode stand-ins, moneywise, SAG-AFTRA only secured $1 wage increases to their hourly rate each year of the three-year contract. This $1 annual wage increase was mostly a “pattern bargaining” increase rather than a show of union clout at the bargaining table.

In other words, most of the time in recent memory, stand-ins only seemed to receive $1 wage increases in Netcode negotiations. In the prior contract, the increases were not annual and took more time to go into effect; this negotiation was a bit better for stand-ins in that the increases were annual. But they are still just $1 a year in the hourly rate.

Remind Stand-Ins They Have Hourly Minimums — Without Saying Who Has to Remind Stand-Ins of This

SAG-AFTRA is also saying that it gained the following for stand-ins:

Require that stand-ins be advised of their minimum call at the time of engagement.

This gain is not an economic gain for stand-ins. Instead, it invites more problems for stand-ins.

For one, it reminds stand-ins that when they are booked, they may work as few as two hours.

But perhaps more importantly, the gain does not say who is responsible for advising the stand-ins of their minimum call.

The question becomes whether the production is responsible for telling stand-ins this information (since they are the signatory) or the casting director (who is not a signatory), or some other point person.

Furthermore, should you be told incorrect information about your minimum call, it is unclear who is at fault because the responsibility is not clarified in this gain. For example, if the casting director responds to your question of “What’s the minimum call?” with “Uh, I don’t know, maybe five hours?,” is the production liable for paying for five hours if the minimum for the stand-in job is actually two hours?

No Economic Penalties for Grievances

If stand-ins are not told of their minimum call, this proposed gain does not carry with it any economic penalty. Stand-ins can’t gain damages in the case of a grievance or contract claim.

Essentially, this gain for stand-ins is an unnecessary gain. It is almost equivalent to requiring the major networks tell you all of your contract terms, when it is largely your responsibility to know your contract terms.

As a further insult, the major networks are essentially reminding stand-ins they only have a two-hour minimum in many cases. Furthermore, they are reminding stand-ins just how poorly SAG-AFTRA negotiated for them at the bargaining table. This gain, while aimed at being protective for the stand-in, actually shows how weak the stand-in and its union is.

Vote NO Now!

Sadly, Stand-In Central believes, despite advocating for a NO vote, a majority of SAG-AFTRA members will vote yes on the Network Television Code referendum — at very least because the union told them to, without the union telling them how voting NO may spur additional and better negotiations to effect an even better referendum later.

More negotiations are the only foreseeable chance to protect stand-ins, increase their wages, and improve their working conditions in the next three-year cycle of the contract.

Please vote NO now before the deadline. Votes can be cast online here by this Thursday, August 18th, 2018. A majority of NO votes will prevent the referendum from being ratified. Without a majority, the referendum will be ratified and go into effect. But a large showing of NO votes will communicate a message to the union that there is a growing disenchantment with how the Netcode is being negotiated.

Voting results should be announced by week’s end.

How are you voting on the Network Television Code referendum, and why? Share your opinions in the comments below!