SAG-AFTRA has filed a jurisdictional complaint against Actors’ Equity in their ongoing dispute over the taping of live theatrical presentations. The union filed the complaint and a request for mediation with the Associated Actors and Artistes of America – commonly known as the 4As – through which both unions are affiliated with the AFL-CIO. “It is with heavy hearts that we file a formal complaint and request for a mediator in our jurisdictional dispute,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and national executive director David White said in a message to their members today. “Let us be very clear: this is a last resort. We tried negotiation, but Actors’ Equity Association refused our waiver and walked away from talks with no notice.”
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SAG-AFTRA, which has long claimed jurisdiction over the taping of live shows, offered Equity a limited waiver during the pandemic, but Equity rejected it, accusing SAG-AFTRA of “looking to use a pandemic to claim jurisdiction in Equity workplaces now and into the future in a way they haven’t had before,” and disrupting the relationship between employers and actors “that has existed for years, if not decades.”
“Unfortunately, AEA leadership repudiated our waiver offer, broke off negotiations, and passed a resolution in (Equity’s) Council calling for a formal public campaign against SAG-AFTRA members,” Carteris and White told their members. “We cannot be silent or stand idly by while a fellow union attacks the interests of our members. Consequently, we filed our complaint and informed AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and the Department for Professional Employees of our action. We have requested the appointment of a neutral mediator to re-engage AEA in negotiations and still hope that they will accept a waiver to get their members back to work.”
In its complaint, SAG-AFTRA accused Equity “with infringement of its rightful and traditional jurisdiction and seeks protection from any further encroachment and appropriate remedial relief for violations that have already occurred.” See the complaint and SAG-AFTRA’s letter AFL-CIO president Trumka here:
The SAG-AFTRA leaders said they tried conciliation, but Equity’s leadership “has rejected any alternative we offered and refuses to negotiate in good faith to find a mutually agreeable solution. AEA’s attacks on our union would be shocking at any time. They are irresponsible and heart-breaking during a global pandemic and production shutdown that daily harms all of our members. The only real solution is through partnership, with a waiver that protects all members, which we continue to offer, but AEA refuses.”
The dispute, they told their members, “is beyond a simple difference of opinion. AEA leadership has spearheaded a divisive and damaging public campaign to force members to choose which union they support. We believe that you should not have to choose. Our job is to protect the interests of SAG-AFTRA members and to help where we can, to protect AEA members. We remain eager to give AEA a waiver that would allow their members — many of whom are also SAG-AFTRA members — to continue working and earning through the pandemic.”
The waiver SAG-AFTRA offered would temporarily cede jurisdiction over taped theatrical presentations to Equity during the “Pandemic Period,” ending on April 30, 2021, unless both unions agree to an extension. And it comes with strict limitations: the taped shows can’t be exhibited on streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO Max, Disney+, AppleTV+, CBS All Access, and Peacock – which would fall under SAG-AFTRA’s jurisdictions – but instead can only be viewed on restricted digital platforms “that can be accessed only by ticket-holders or subscribers of the existing Equity bargaining partner.” An Equity source said that many of its employers don’t even have such platforms.
See the proposed waiver here:
Earlier this month, the usually fractious SAG-AFTRA national board of directors unanimously approved a resolution reaffirming the union’s jurisdiction over the taping of live theater productions, accusing Actors’ Equity of taking part in a “surreptitious campaign to encroach upon SAG-AFTRA jurisdiction.” The board, meeting in special session, also directed SAG-AFTRA counsel to conduct an investigation into Equity’s “activities seeking to poach SAG-AFTRA’s jurisdiction.”
Equity president Kate Shindle subsequently accused SAG-AFTRA for interfering in her union’s internal affairs, calling the investigation a “sham.” Earlier this month, Equity said that more than 240 stage productions that were recorded for remote viewing during the pandemic have been performed under its contracts, while 60-plus have been performed under SAG-AFTRA’s contracts.
The SAG-AFTRA leaders said that they “continue to seek a resolution that serves SAG-AFTRA members and protects our jurisdiction while giving much-needed support to AEA members during this critical time.”