Strike fears in commercial contract talks


A leaked draft of a strike authorization letter sparked rumors that talks which began last month between the joint SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee and ANA-AAAA aren’t going as well as had been thought. But the unions insist the leaked letter is just one of several contingencies being developed, so don’t panic. The current commercials contracts for radio and TV expire on March 31st.

“We’re still nowhere near a strike – that letter’s a leaked draft, not something that’s in the mail – but the thought is nonetheless unnerving,” said attorney Jonathan Handel, who has been following the commercial contracts negotiations and the SAG negotiations with the Hollywood studios in his Digital Media Law blog.

The draft letter, posted on the online site, accused the advertiser/agency negotiators of demanding rollbacks in compensation and benefits. And it complained that the advertiser/agency side wants to go forward with testing an alternative compensation model from a joint management-union funded study that management favors, but not one favored by the union side.

A statement from SAG and AFTRA described the leak as an “unauthorized distribution” and said it was “one of many contingency documents that we prepare in the course of any negotiations.”

“Nonetheless, I’m guessing the leaks are a trial balloon intended to pressure the Joint Policy Committee, or JPC, representing the advertisers and ad agencies. If the JPC doesn’t move on the issues and if the union membership doesn’t rebel at the idea of an authorization, then we may indeed see an authorization put to a vote of the members,” Handel wrote. But he added this note: “It’s important to remember that an authorization does not automatically mean a strike, especially since the more strike-averse AFTRA is part of the mix, unlike with the SAG TV/theatrical negotiations, where the more strike-happy hardliners were unconstrained last year.”