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Narrow Margin: AFTRA Ratifies Primetime Contract by 62.4%

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AFTRA has ratified the primetime contract, but SAG's assault had great effect. The margin -- the percent of yes votes -- was only 62.4%. The percentage of no votes was 37.6%. Turnout was not released.

In contrast, the margin on the somewhat similar daytime pact (the AFTRA Network Code), ratified April 30, was 93%. In other words, SAG drove the margin down by 30 points -- well over what I (I had predicted 20 points) and other expected when SAG's anti-AFTRA campaign began.

Thus, although the deal passed, this has to be counted as a partial victory for SAG. A strike authorization vote still seems unlikely, because a 75% yes vote is required for passage and the fact that the AFTRA deal passed makes a successful strike authorization vote questionable. Nonetheless, SAG will be emboldened by the low yes vote achieved by AFTRA, and is likely to resist compromise with the AMPTP for some time to come, absent some other decisive action by the AMPTP.

In an invitation-only press conference call, AFTRA president Roberta Reardon said she was very happy at passage in the face of SAG's attacks on the deal. AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts-Hedgepeth said she was pleased that the AFTRA membership, negotiating committee and board recognized the merits of the deal. Reardon also said they'd like to encourage merger. She also said that Membership First must be held accountable for its actions -- implying that those of Membership First who are up for re-election in September should be voted out, but she declined to urge that, saying only that she hoped SAG members "use their vote responsibly."

The AFTRA leaders declined to predict what SAG will do now.

Here are the AFTRA and SAG press releases on the above:

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AFTRA MEMBERS RATIFY PRIMETIME TELEVISION CONTRACT

AFTRA Leadership to Focus on Unity Initiatives Moving Forward

LOS ANGELES (July 8, 2008) - The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) announced today that AFTRA members ratified a new three-year primetime television agreement (Exhibit A of the AFTRA Network Television Code) reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) by a 62.4% margin.

AFTRA--the nation's second largest performers' union--represents more than 70,000 actors, recording artists, broadcasters, and other talent working in the entertainment and media industries.

AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon made the following statement:

"Today's vote reflects the ability of AFTRA members to recognize a solid contract when they see it. Despite an unprecedented disinformation campaign aimed at interfering with our ratification process, a majority of members ultimately focused on what mattered--the obvious merits of a labor agreement that contains substantial gains for every category of performer in both traditional and new media.

"Clearly, this was not a typical ratification process, and it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise. To those of us for whom labor solidarity is more than just a slogan, the idea that politically-motivated leaders of one union would use their members' dues to attack another union is unconscionable. Working people do not benefit when their union is under attack.

"For the sake of our members, organized labor must be united, especially in a world of ever-increasing corporate consolidation. Given this, AFTRA leadership is eager to focus on several important initiatives in the months to come:

1) Building on the suggestion of our valued supporters, we will seek to organize a summit of top actors, performers, and union leaders to engage in a thoughtful, constructive discussion of how we can achieve unity among performers--and ultimately, if feasible, merger of the performers' unions.

2) Given that working men and women accomplish more when we work together with trust and mutual respect, we will ask the leadership of the AFL-CIO AEMI ICC unions, the DGA, WGA and others in the labor community to come together well in advance of the next round of contract negotiations to explore ways of maximizing the leverage of entertainment industry workers.

3) Finally, I intend to promptly review with our National elected leadership and the Presidents of all AFTRA Locals the conditions needed to restore trust to re-establish joint bargaining on our respective commercials contracts.

"I sincerely appreciate the committed work of the negotiating committee, elected leaders, the labor community, and individual activist members of AFTRA who worked tirelessly and publicly to secure this solid contract for television industry performers. I am especially grateful for the support of many joint members of SAG and AFTRA--such as those in Chicago, Florida, Houston, Nashville, New York, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle--who displayed courage in the face of potential retribution, by taking a stand against disunity with the power of truth and solidarity."

Negotiations with the AMPTP over the AFTRA Primetime TV contract began on May 7. They concluded on May 28 with a tentative agreement that was unanimously recommended for approval by AFTRA's 31-member negotiating committee. The AFTRA National Board of Directors overwhelmingly approved the primetime television contract on June 7 and recommended the deal to members, which was ratified today. The new contract is effective from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2011.

AFTRA contracts cover more than 70% of the programming hours on major network television.

AFTRA primetime TV dramas and situation comedies include "Rules of Engagement," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Flight of the Conchords," "Dante's Cove," "Til Death," "Reaper," "Project Gary," "Harper's Island," "Roman's Empire," and the new "90210."

The AFTRA Network Code, which was ratified by AFTRA members on April 30, also covers actors and all on-camera and off-camera talent on all forms of television programming: reality shows, syndicated dramas, daytime serials, game shows, talk shows, variety and musical programs, news, sports, and promotional announcements. Programs covered by the Code include "American Idol," "Dancing with the Stars," "Late Show with David Letterman," "Good Morning America," "20/20," "The View," "The Tonight Show," "Oprah," "The Price is Right," "Deal or No Deal," "America's Next Top Model," "Days of Our Lives," "All My Children," "Cake," "Saturday Night Live," "Entertainment Tonight," and "Survivor," among others.

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Screen Actors Guild National President Alan Rosenberg Statement

Los Angeles, July 8, 2008 -- Screen Actors Guild National President Alan Rosenberg released the following statement today:

"Clearly many Screen Actors Guild members responded to our education and outreach campaign and voted against the inadequate AFTRA agreement. 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.

Screen Actors Guild is the actors union with more than 95% of the work under this contract, jurisdiction over all motion pictures, and more than $4 billion dollars in member earnings under the SAG agreement over just the last three years.

We thank the more than 4,500 proud SAG members from all over this country who have signed the "SAG Solidarity Statement," in support of their negotiators. The Screen Actors Guild national negotiating committee remains committed to our core institutional mission to improve the lives of actors and their families.

We will continue to address the issues of importance to actors that AFTRA left on the table and we remain committed to achieving a fair contract for SAG actors."