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AIP034 | Why You Should Vote No for the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract

AIP034 | Why You Should Vote No for the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract

by April 19, 2016 11 comments

Host (and actor) Ben Hauck explains in detail why SAG-AFTRA actors should vote no on the proposed 2016 Commercials Contract.

In the episode, Ben outlines some of the important losses SAG-AFTRA actors will experience should they ratify this contract negotiated recently between the union and commercial producers. Namely, actors will lose use fees they typically get when their commercials are played. They’ll lose these use fees (which could equal hundreds to thousands of dollars) when their commercials are simultaneously streamed on the Internet, New Media, or a future technology, and they’ll also lose them when their commercials are edited for special offers and promotions.

In addition, SAG-AFTRA actors will be paid later than in the prior commercials contract. Furthermore, the proposed contract does not include a precise definition for the term “commercial,” which means that a later definition may prompt the union to give away more of your use without payment to you.

Ben points out that the press release SAG-AFTRA put out points up the increases the union accomplished in the negotiation, but it doesn’t include what the union lost for actors. Given this and other wordings in the press release, Ben deems the SAG-AFTRA press release as “propagandistic” — an attempt to persuade members to vote yes on a contract that freely gives away fees for the commercial actor more valuable than the 7% wage increase the contract provides.

Ben urges SAG-AFTRA actors to vote no (#VoteNo and #VoteHellNo), but even more generally to simply vote — even if they haven’t worked in commercials yet. He explains their vote — or failure to vote — may affect the commercials contract they work under in the future. If SAG-AFTRA members choose not to ratify this proposed commercials contract, Ben says actors are not urging a strike so much as urging a continued negotiation to address the important compensation to actors that the union has bargained away in this proposed contract — compensation that is aimed contractually at ensuring actors can work in commercials, be paid of the use of their work, and survive inevitable periods of unemployment that being identified in commercials creates.

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Promotional Hashtags
  • #VoteNo
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Documents Related to the 2016 SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract

The following documents relate to the tentative agreement on the 2016 Commercials Contract between SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee (i.e., commercial producers), forged on April 3, 2016.

SAG-AFTRA members will vote whether to ratify the agreement. Ballots were mailed beginning on April 18, 2016.

This is the 2013 Commercials Contract, which expired on March 31, 2016, then was extended during recent negotiations to expire on April 2, 2016:

These documents show the exact changes to be made to the 2013 Commercials Contract:

This document from the SAG-AFTRA press release on the tentative agreement provides a tidier summary of the changes to the 2013 Commercials Contract:

Waldorf Astoria Hotel

The negotiations took place at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Article

The following article from tells of the JPC’s push to remove use fees from commercials edited into special offers and promotions.

The passage referenced in the podcast episode reads:

[T]he advertisers and ad agencies pressed hard for a small provision that Quinn had been pushing for years. It allows fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and single-brand retailers like Apple – like all other advertisers – to edit existing ads for special promotional offers without triggering payments for a whole new commercial. In past negotiations, the ad industry had always traded this away for something else, but this time, in her memory, they held firm and got it. “She did a solid for McDonald’s and Apple,” a source laughed ruefully.

Definition of “Stock Footage”

I reference the Wikipedia entry for “stock footage,” retrieved on April 18, 2016.

Commercial Wage Estimator

The following calculator (in beta on the SAG-AFTRA website) is aimed at producers to estimate the cost of hiring a SAG-AFTRA actor for a commercial. If you are an actor, you can use it to estimate your payments for a SAG-AFTRA commercial based on some general information about the commercial:


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  • Alex

    Posted earlier about why I thought it was ridiculous that an actor who went Fi-Core and has an e-book detailing how others can do it as well, would have the audacity to urge people to vote “No” on a contract that they themselves have no ability to vote on. But it seems that that comment was not posted or “approved”…

    • It never came through – this is the first I’m seeing of a comment. Approved.

      • Alex

        I may have not set it up properly before posting

        • No problem! You seem all set up now. 👍🏼

    • If I were to join the union again as a member, would my opinions then be taken more seriously, do you think?

      • Alex

        I do, yes. Fi-Core is an extremely hot topic, as I’m sure you know, ESPECIALLY in regards to Commercials and the “race to the bottom” in regards to talent and pay. Not to mention the prevalence of Non-Union commercials. This contract, I believe, isn’t perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction to get some of the NU work back into the Union fold.

        • I’m trying to understand. If I keep the same opinions as represented in Episode 34, and am fi-core, you won’t take those opinions seriously, but you will take those same opinions seriously if I become a member again?

          If that’s true, I don’t understand. For example, if I yelled Fire! and was fi-core, it would seem you would not listen or do anything, but you would if I yelled Fire! and were union again. (The metaphor may be appropriate in that the episode aims to point out alarming issues in the proposed contract to those who will vote on it.)

          • rilo40

            Brilliant Ben. Brilliant.

          • Alex

            I don’t feel the “fire” analogy is appropriate here, but of course I understand what you’re saying.
            The question to a Union member becomes, “Why should I listen to someone who is undermining the Union and it’s position, by having their cake and eating it too by being Fi-Core?” I get it, you want to work, we all do. But why should I think you have Actor’s best interests in mind, when you’re accepting jobs that aren’t Union? Sure, it’s your right, and I would like to presume that you DO have Actors best interests in this podcast, but I think you can see why a Union member might see this episode as disingenuous?

          • I can imagine that if a member is interested less in his/her individual gains and more in his/her union’s gains — even at the risk of losing some individual income in the (presumed) tradeoff for maintaining union jurisdiction — why such a member may be disinterested in hearing the opinions of an actor who is fi-core within the union’s jurisdiction. The case would be that the member has the greater stake in maintaining jurisdiction and okay with certain giveaeays because, because of Global Rule One, his/her work is limited to union juridictions — while the fi-core worker is not so limited and therefore does not have the same desperate stake in the jurisdictional gains of the union. (I do not mean “desperate” pejoratively.)

            That said, as a fi-core worker, I do have individual interests in preserving the value of sessions and use — not in giving up value of either. The 2013 Commercials Contract even has argument for paying use fees in its opening paragraphs. So a giveaway of use fees — notably, the ones given away in the proposed 2016 contract — runs counterintuitively to the argument in the beginning of the 2013 contract. I dislike that my work’s use would be unpaid in such potentially lucrative ways if the 2016 proposed contract is ratified by members.

            So, the fight is for the individual worker in my argument. The counter, I suppose, is that these giveaways were tradeoffs, and they were more or less necessary to maintain jurisdiction and interest in becoming or remaining signatory. My overall argument is, No, I do not approve of those “tradeoffs,” so I do not recommend ratifying the terms of the proposed contract on those (but also other) grounds.

            The aim is not “No Contract” or “Strike” or “Work Stoppage.” The aim is “Do Not Ratify a Disagreeable Contract” and effect further negotiation toward a better tentative agreement I/we could back and members would ratify with their vote.

            Pointing out issues with the contract is something I wanted to do for those who might not take time to find them or for those who only read the press release about the tentative agreement. It’s up to the member listening to decide for themselves whether the issues I point out matter to them. It may be that members, just as this fi-core actor, object to aspects of the contract and care less about the jurisdiction and more about themselves as individual workers. Some members may have similar interests as the fi-core actor, the main difference being that they’re simply not fi-core.

            I welcome your reply if you have the time.

          • Alex

            And I appreciate your pointing out the issues that you have with the proposed contract, you’ve raised valuable concerns. I especially found the “Stock Footage” note interesting. I, honestly, am not sure how I’m going to vote at this moment, as both proponents and nay-sayers have made some interesting arguments. As with any negotiation, there are going to be things that both sides have to concede, and items that they will categorize as “wins” for their side. The JPC would definitely say that the new 2 week “promo” without triggering a new payment would be a win, and probably the “simultaneous” showing as well. If I remember correctly, the Union said as much in the webinar I listened to last week. And the Union would say other items were “wins” for them, in getting or maintaining, Union jurisdiction in areas that have been predominantly NU. And that, for me as a Union member, is predominantly what is important. I don’t like the NU work being made, and I don’t like Fi-Core people who feel it’s ok to play both sides of the coin. If I did, I wouldn’t have joined over 15 years ago. And I get your reasoning for doing it, and that you didn’t do it without deep reflection, but that doesn’t mean I’ll tell you I’m ok with it. Personally, I think if you go Fi-Core, you should be out of SAG-AFTRA. Period. Because it’s a race to the bottom, in my opinion.
            But I digress.
            There was an article just published in the LA Times today discussing the upcoming Upfronts and the presumed increase in TV ad sales compared to the past 2 years, because Advertisers are finding that TV is still “king” for the majority of eyeballs that will see their ads, and will be putting more money in that area, after shifting some of that money to the Internet. Does that mean that Internet advertising is going bye-bye? Not by any stretch, and I think if you live in LA or NYC, you’d say that Internet is killing Commercial Actors and their work, since Internet and Social Media tend to go predominantly NU. Also, who do you know that watches TV “live?” Probably not a lot. But the numbers, evidently, don’t support that on a National level. Yet. So positioning the Union to get more of a foothold in Internet/Social Media world for the next 3 years, is not a bad thing, in addition to increases in traditional media usage, TV/Cable. Man, I sound like a Union shill 🙂 Maybe, I have made up my mind…
            The sad thing is, is that there are many members who won’t look into the contract, or barely/don’t work the contract , and will vote “Yes” regardless if it’s “good” or “bad”, they’re just happy a contract is in place. Ultimately, it’s up to the Performer to make their educated decision.
            And, I should add, I have enjoyed the podcast overall, as your story is very similar to mine, aside from the Fi-Core part 😉