Aftra finally votes for deal with hollywood producers


Roberta Reardon, Aftra’s national president, and Alan Rosenberg, president of the Screen Actors Guild.

 

Members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists approved their new contract with Hollywood’s major production companies by a solid margin on Tuesday.

Leaders of the federation said members ratified the deal with 62.4 percent approval in a vote that concluded late Tuesday evening. The margin of approval was smaller than the overwhelming endorsements typical of union ratification votes. The federation declined to give an exact vote count, citing longstanding practice.

But the margin was large enough to create a migraine for the Screen Actors Guild, the dominant actors’ union with some 120,000 members. The guild has been demanding higher pay, an increase in payments connected to DVD sales, restrictions on the placement of commercial products in shows and movies and a bigger take from the use of their work in new media.

About 75 percent of Aftra’s 70,000 members are actors. Those figures suggest that a large number of actors are weary of Hollywood’s labor unrest and are not eager for a new strike. About 40,000 actors belong to both Aftra and S.A.G.

Alan Rosenberg, S.A.G.’s president, said in a statement: “Clearly many Screen Actors Guild members responded to our education and outreach campaign and voted against the inadequate Aftra agreement.”

He added, “We will continue to address the issues of importance to actors that Aftra left on the table.”

On Tuesday, S.A.G. was dealing with what two board members described as deepening internal dissent. More moderate members, which include many top-earning actors, were arguing that an Aftra ratification by any margin erased S.A.G.’s bargaining power, while more militant leaders held fast to the position that a contract approval by the smaller union was not a death blow.

Regardless, S.A.G.’s leaders are now left with a set of tough choices: They can risk a strike authorization vote that might not pass, concede points they have been pressing for months or prolong the current uncertainty despite the growing impatience of many union workers whose income is evaporating as production slows down.

A guild spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment. In brief statements on Tuesday, the guild and the producers’ alliance said the actors would respond to the companies’ latest offer at a meeting on Thursday.

Prominent performers weighed in on all sides. Tom Hanks spoke for the Aftra deal, Sean Penn campaigned against it, and George Clooney had a middle response, proposing that actor pay be reviewed annually by a panel of big stars.

While the cut-and-thrust continues, Hollywood has been edging forward on makeshift production schedules aimed at suspending movie and television shoots should the actors strike.

 

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