Earlier this week, the country’s largest actors union, SAG-AFTRA, issued a release to its 100,000-plus active members calling “BS” on Publicis Groupe’s BBH.
The release claims that BBH, which has “long been signatory to the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract,” is attempting to exit that agreement. As in the past, the organization claims the agency’s goal is to save money by using non-union actors in its productions.
SAG-AFTRA leadership wrote that, while they had not yet called for a strike on BBH, they would do so unless the agency resolved the matter. They also directed members to reach out if they had been working on any BBH projects.
“The complaint is pretty simple: they are attempting to unilaterally repudiate the contact and get out of their legal obligation to bargain in good faith with us over a new contract,” said SAG-AFTRA national executive director and chief negotiator David White. “We intend to get them to the bargaining table and bargain a fair deal with them.”
White also noted that SAG-AFTRA has successfully negotiated such disputes with other agencies in the past.
“What their competitors have discovered, and what we certainly believe, is that we have a great deal of flexibility built into out contracts to give them the tools they need to be competitive in the marketplace,” he said.
You may recall that the union had similar disputes with both Grey and Droga5 in 2016. It accused the former of using its own production unit Townhouse to avoid hewing to the commercials contract, held a protest at Droga’s downtown Manhattan office and even bought an ad in AdAge accusing the agency of exploiting actors (it must be noted that Droga5 is not a signatory to the aforementioned contract).
White clarified that the union’s complaint pertains to BBH’s New York and L.A. offices and that it is currently in talks with agency representatives.
“As a matter of company policy, we do not comment on ongoing legal disputes, contract negotiations, or other company partnerships,” said a BBH representative.
Regarding Grey, White said, “We worked in-depth with Grey to address their concerns and continue to have a great relationship with [them]. They went about this the right way.”
He added that, since Droga5 is a non-signatory, “that’s a separate situation, period.”