AFTRA Ratifies Contract


LOS ANGELES After a bitter feud with sister union the Screen Actors Guild over its prime-time TV contract, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists' membership on Tuesday approved the union's new deal with the studios.

Slightly more than 62 percent of the voting members said yes to the pact.

"Today's vote reflects the ability of AFTRA members to recognize a solid contract when they see it," AFTRA president Roberta Reardon said late Tuesday. "We were faced with an unprecedented situation of another union mounting a well-funded and ferocious attack on our contract-ratification process. In the face of that kind of attack, I think the percentage that ratified this contract is really good, and I'm thrilled."

SAG, whose leadership had contended that a separate deal with AFTRA would dilute its clout at the bargaining table, asserted that the referendum was skewed by non-actor members of the union.

"Clearly, many Screen Actors Guild members responded to our education and outreach campaign and voted against the inadequate AFTRA agreement," SAG president Alan Rosenberg said. "We knew AFTRA would appeal to its many AFTRA-only members, who are news people, sportscasters and DJs, to pass the tentative agreement covering acting jobs. In its materials, AFTRA focused that appeal on the importance of actor members' increased contributions to help fund its broadcast members' pension and health benefits."

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said the AFTRA ratification was "a vote of confidence by actors." The organization said it hopes that passage will demonstrate to SAG's Hollywood leadership that "there is support for the new economic relationships we have built with writers, directors and actors -- and not much support for a strike, whether de facto or real."

AFTRA declined to reveal the specific number of votes received in the ratification process for the primetime/TV deal, indicating that releasing the numbers could benefit the employers they negotiate with in future talks. It was the fifth national contract the union has negotiated in less than a year.

Reardon said she thought Rosenberg was "grossly misinformed" about AFTRA's broadcasting membership. About 4,200, or less than 6 percent, of AFTRA's 70,000 members are broadcasters, with 90 percent of AFTRA's membership characterized as entertainers, including actors, announcers, comedians and dancers, she said.

The AMPTP made what it termed its final offer to SAG on June 30 -- the day the contract expired -- and broke off talks, maintaining that it would not resume negotiations. The guild will meet with the AMPTP on Thursday to give its response to the offer, which mirrors AFTRA's contract, as well as those passed by the Directors Guild of America and Writers Guild of America membership.

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