TV Network Actors to See Increased Wages Over Next 3 Years, Into 2022

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Members of SAG-AFTRA—the nation’s union for screen actors—can anticipate an increase in residual payments from television gigs, along with other perks, thanks to a recently confirmed agreement between the union and the major network stations. Representatives from ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox sat down with a negotiating team of union members for several days to iron out the details of the three-year contract. The high-profile deal encompasses not only the programming on the networks’ formal stations, but their digital media presences, as well.

Amendments to be unraveled (or phased in) throughout the contract’s three-year term include an 8.7 percent overall wage increase; a 4.6 percent wage increase for background actors in variety shows; heightened contributions to AFTRA Retirement and Industry Cooperative funds; rehearsal time adjustments for dancers and singers; an increase in wages for dancers on award shows; and an 11.5 percent increase for stand-in and dance-in rates.

Significantly, the new agreement also modifies the language relating to minors working on productions. While these changes won’t alter the working hour protocols for child actors in New York and California, it does expand the union’s purview into child labor in other states—where various state laws create a Rubik’s Cube of labor laws depending on where the television show is being shot.

Members of the negotiating team spanned across networks from within the union—from actors who usually headline projects to actors who make a living filling in background roles. Stand-in actors, voiceover announcers, singers, and dancers were also represented in the union’s bargaining team—which brokered the deal with executives in Sherman Oaks, California. The union’s press release on the matter is deliberate to note that hands were shaken at the dramatic time of 1:55 in the morning.

“This deal delivers overall gains in important areas, including meaningful increases in wages and residuals rates that will put real money in members’ pockets,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris, who was also in the room, along with lead negotiator, Ray Rodriguez.

In a statement, Carteris was quick to praise the team, Rodriguez, and David P. White, the salaried (and nonelected) national executive director of SAG-AFTRA. White, an attorney by trade, is no stranger to such high-profile negotiations—with SAG-AFTRA’s 160,000 members, he has a big bargaining chip when negotiating with networks.

Further, Carteris indicated, this new deal will embrace SAG-AFTRA’s recent campaign to end the all-too-common practice of hosting auditions in hotel rooms and private rooms. The union made this call for change in April with its Four Pillars of Change initiative. After the revelations of sexual manipulation (and subsequent arrest) of Harvey Weinstein, the disturbing practice was put out in the sun for all the world to see.

“We are committed to addressing the scenario that has allowed predators to exploit performers behind closed doors under the guise of a professional meeting,” said Carteris in a previous statement. This inclusion of language banning the practice is a win for the union, indicating a rather swift industrywide change for better protocols when it comes to how actors engage with influential folks in the entertainment industry.

The agreement—known as the Network Code—is a big deal for the union, as it provokes roughly $200 million in yearly spending from producers toward the industry. The agreement, however, is strictly tentative as of press time. The new bargain won’t become official protocol until the SAG-AFTRA National Board votes on the matter in late July. While the board can make adjustments before approving the deal, there is little reason to believe it will present any roadblocks to the deal’s passing. From there, the terms of the agreement will be disseminated to union membership.

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