SAG-AFTRA Files Complaint Against Actors Equity as Live Show Taping Dispute Escalates

“Let us be very clear: this is a last resort,” guild heads Gabrielle Carteris and David White write as they seek mediation from the 4As and the AFL-CIO

“It is with heavy hearts that we file a formal complaint and request for a mediator in our jurisdictional dispute,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and national executive director David White said in a memo released on Saturday. “Let us be very clear: this is a last resort. We tried negotiation, but Actors’ Equity Association refused our waiver and walked away from talks with no notice.”

The conflict was brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, as SAG-AFTRA, which has always claimed jurisdiction over tapings, offered a “limited waiver” to Actors Equity for the duration of the pandemic. The issue has become particularly contentious as theatrical companies have turned to streaming and taping stage performances to salvage lost revenue from the shutdown of live performances.

Actors Equity — which represents over 50,000 theatrical actors and stage managers — has accused SAG-AFTRA of undermining them by negotiating lower-paying deals with theaters for streaming stage shows. SAG-AFTRA rebuts, saying that such tapings fall under their jurisdiction as they are intended for film, TV and radio, mediums for which SAG-AFTRA has long represented actors.

“Members have told us they were offered contracts for as little as $125 per day,” Actors Equity executive director Mary McColl said in a statement on Oct. 7. “Multiple stage managers told us they have been excluded entirely, had their contracts revoked or been offered work as independent contractors and without workers’ compensation protections.”

In addition to reaching out to the 4As for a mediator, SAG-AFTRA has reached out to the AFL-CIO and its president, Richard Trumka, asking for assistance in the dispute via the organization’s Department of Public Employees.

“We respectfully request that the AFL-CIO’s DPE assist the parties in this matter, including, but not limited to, facilitating the appointment of a mediator to pursue an agreement as to this matter,” Carteris and White said. “Although SAG-AFTRA has decided to initiate dispute resolution processes through the 4As, we remain willing and eager to use the services of the AFL-CIO’s DPE to find an amicable resolution to the dispute if possible.”

In response to the request, Actors Equity accused SAG-AFTRA this weekend of violating a core AFL-CIO rule stating that, “No affiliate shall organize or attempt to represent employees as to whom an established collective bargaining relationship exists with any other affiliate.”

“Equity will respond appropriately and publicly to SAG-AFTRA’s infringement on its legal rights and relationships with its bargaining partners, and will defend its legally binding Collective Bargaining Agreements with its employers in order to represent its members to the best of its ability,” the union said.

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