MEMBERSHIP FIRST: MATTHEW MODINE CANDIDATE FOR 2019 SAG-AFTRA PRESIDENT

 AN URGENT MESSAGE FROM SAG-AFTRA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MATTHEW MODINE

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Hello my union colleagues, I’m Matthew Modine.

I decided to run for President to return the favor of the protections I’ve enjoyed, and to serve our membership.

My daughter belongs to the next generation of artists in our union.  I want them all to know I am here to continue the legacy.

MATTHEW MODINE | I’M ON YOUR SIDE

 
 

2.  Our issues are many - these are but five:

  A.  Split-Earnings:  An unresolved problem since merger (3/30/2012) has left many members unable to qualify for a pension credit: Section II ~ Scroll to: Fix the Split-Earnings Gap https://membershipfirst.com/platform2

  B.  Pension Inequity: We believe that all participants in the SAG Pension Plan should accrue at the same rate: Section II ~ Scroll to: Pension Equity https://membershipfirst.com/platform2

  C.  Renting vs Owning: We believe that SAG-AFTRA is throwing good money after bad by spending $6M/year renting just 4 floors of a building in LA. Section II ~ Scroll to: Be Smart With Our Money https://membershipfirst.com/platform2

  D.  Sexual Harassment: A low sense of urgency by our union has left members feeling unsafe.  We will continue to lead the charge: Section II ~ Scroll to: Combat Sexual Harassment https://membershipfirst.com/platform2

Harassment Within a Union: https://membershipfirst.com/harassment-within-a-union 

Suggestion: https://membershipfirst.com/re-recommendations-for-sag-aftra-to-strengthen-protections-of-members-from-workplace-sexual-harassment-and-assault

CHORUS OF VOICES

 
 

E. Contract Negotiations: The latest contract (Netflix) was not negotiated by the Negotiating Committee. Staff negotiated. We Are a Member-Led Union. This agreement is fraught with problems which includes:

a. No residual increase on an already low formula. Section I ~ Scroll to: Fight for Residuals https://membershipfirst.com/platform1

b. No increases across the board for background – no increases in numbers, pay, or coverage in New Mexico - Section 1 ~ Scroll to: Background Actors https://membershipfirst.com/platform1

c. We were told that the reason the membership was not allowed to vote to approve the Netflix deal is because it was a “single employer” and didn’t affect a substantial portion of the membership: Netflix Global Real Estate Grab: How the Streamer Is Expanding From London to Singapore

3. With regard to the lie that UFS is spreading about MembershipFirst “costing" our SAG members $100M, they failed to mention a key fact:

JODI LONG | TODAY TOMORROW FOR YOU

 
 

4. Lastly, we have a question about election malfeasance, to which we have yet to receive a reply:

MATTHEW MODINE | WE ARE A MEMBERSHIP-LED UNION

 
 

Those who serve others, best serve themselves.

With respect and bonhomie,

Matthew Modine


UFS FICTION/ UNION TRUTH

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The following are MembershipFirst's 17 responses to the distortion of fact:

1. UFS Fiction: "Merging the unions will remove a significant obstacle to the eventual merger of the benefit plans."  

Union Truth: Prior to the union merger vote in 2012, in the “Pension & Health, Health & Retirement Feasibility Report” to the membership, it was concluded by six of the “most experienced ERISA attorneys in the country” that "There is no legal obstacle to merging the pension and health plans" and that “The merger process for plans is not particularly complicated.” After union merger, at a SAG-AFTRA membership meeting, National Executive Director David White said this regarding the merging of the pension plans: "It's a regulatory nightmare." Under the 2014 Codified Basic Agreement with the AMPTP (the very first merged SAG-AFTRA contract), led by UFS, split earnings were officially codified - and contributions from your earnings were calculated at 57% for the SAG Pension Plan and 43% for the AFTRA Retirement Fund. And yes, while the Health Plans were merged five years after the unions merged, threshold requirements for both health and pension continue to rise, leaving many union performers out in the cold. UFS' pre-merger promises have not come to fruition - and currently, there is no known pension-merger timetable by the Trustees.

 

2. UFS Fiction: "MF endangered our pensions before UFS led merger to put them on a strong footing.”

Union Truth: The SAG Pension Plan and the AFTRA Retirement Fund remain separate, more than seven years after SAG and AFTRA merged. Members continue to suffer from split earnings, failing to earn any pension credits even when their combined annual earnings would exceed required thresholds in either plan. More importantly, funding for the SAG Pension Plan has decreased from 91.06% in 2008 to 76.97% in 2018, down 14.09% in a ten-year period - steadily decreasing every year since 2014 - the same year that codified split earnings were put into place. UFS keeps saying that funding is "projected" to go higher, reaching 100% in ten years – but, in reality, the funding percentages continue to decline. And if, as UFS suggests, the SAG plan is in such great shape, why then does the earnings qualification threshold continue to rise? What “strong footing” are they referring to? 

 

3. UFS Fiction: The SAG Pension Plan is in the Green Zone.

Union Truth:  This claim is “true,” although only because of generous alterations permitted in the federally-mandated 2014 Pension Reform Act which allows plans that would otherwise be in the Yellow Zone (65% - 80%) to be considered Green (80+%) if they are “projected” to go above 80% within ten years.  However, given the recent trajectory of the plan-funding percentage, again, down 14.09% in the past ten years (see above), this is clearly optimistic guesswork. The latest funding figure from 2018 has the SAG Pension Plan at 76.97%. And if the stock market has risen by more than 7,000 points since 2016, why has the plan’s funding declined 3.11%? What will happen during a recession? 

 

4. UFS Fiction:  MembershipFirst is lying to members regarding pension benefits.   

Union Truth:  MembershipFirst has told no lies about pension benefits.  Everything you need to know about your benefits, you can read about in your annual pension funding notice. We believe in transparency.

 

5. UFS Fiction: The pension accrual disparity between staff (3.5%) and performers (2%) is a MF red herring. The "best and the brightest" staff has to be compensated to keep them from being poached by the studios. And MF has no respect for the staff or the work they do - and they want to take away their pensions.

Union Truth: Staff pension terms are markedly better than actors - in the same plan, but MF has no interest in taking away the staff's pension benefits. We simply want to restore parity which existed prior to 2010, when both staff AND members accrued at 3.5%. When staff can retire with a better pension at age 55 than qualified members at age 65 - based upon equal earnings, it sends the distinct message that the work they do is more valuable than the work actors do. MF exposed this pension disparity when it was inadvertently revealed at an informational meeting regarding early retiree/senior health coverage. Why was this pension disparity kept from us - the members?

 

6. UFS Fiction:  MF targets staff by threatening their jobs and misleading the membership with erroneous information regarding staff salaries.

Union Truth:  It is UFS who has distorted MembershipFirst’s comments on staff salaries. MembershipFirst only has disclosed verifiable staff salaries listed on the annual LM-2s which are available to the public. And despite what UFS says, there is no truth that MF has threatened or “voted” to fire anyone. 

 

7. UFS Fiction: "UFS has brought SAG-AFTRA a monumental 2019 Netflix contract."

Union Truth: The Netflix deal arose out of meetings between five members of our staff and Netflix over how to resolve claims. It was done entirely in secret, excluding and disregarding the constitutional authority of the TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee – the group authorized by the SAG-AFTRA Constitution to negotiate contracts.  This completed "take it or leave it" deal was then submitted for approval to both the Negotiating Committee and the National Board. This deal completely discarded the standard W&W process the union has in place, one that encourages members to participate in during contract negotiations. The membership was denied the chance to vote on the deal because UFS cited the language of the Constitution as it relates to negotiating with a "single employer,” when member employment is neither "widespread" nor whose contract doesn't affect a "significant portion of the membership." Netflix - not widespread or affecting a significant portion of the membership?  Some gains were made, but many areas were ignored and opportunities were lost: no increase in the TV residuals formula for New Media; no Union BG coverage in New Mexico, despite the announced construction of new studio facilities and fifty-five new productions to be slated; and no across-the-board pay or hiring increases for background in any current zone. And President Carteris took “comprehensive” and “monumental” credit for this on both her election statement and the UFS brochure. Is this a member-run or staff-run union? 

 

8. UFS Fiction: We are getting a great deal on renting SAG-AFTRA Plaza, and hey, we aren't in the real estate business!

Union Truth: In Los Angeles alone, we pay six million dollars ($6,000,000) a year on rent at the Wilshire Blvd. office. The DGA, the WGA, Actor’s Equity, American Federation of Musicians Local 47, I.AT.S.E and even the SAG-AFTRA Health/SAG-Producers Pension Plan own their own buildings. They have used time-honored common sense that it's better to build equity than throw money away on rent. How does a dues-driven union with more than 160,000 members fail to find a way to buy a permanent home? 

 

9. UFS Fiction: Residuals aren't going down. 

Union Truth: As content moves away from traditional TV to digital, cable and streaming platforms, our residual formulas in those areas have not kept pace - despite producers making record profits. The Netflix deal, for example, excluded increases in the TV residuals formula for New Media – and cable residuals remain woefully inadequate. 

 

10. UFS Fiction: Great gains for Background Actors!

Union Truth: UFS has failed in every way to protect background actors. No new hiring increases in several negotiations, despite upwards of 500 new members joining the union each month, 20% of whom enter via background vouchers - adding to the competition pool and diluting the work. No outsized raises for background despite non-union minimum wage creeping much closer to the basic union background rate. No elimination of lower-rate new media or cable contracts. No improvements in Netcode contracts paying minimum wage or less or two-hour stand-in minimums. No new zones organized under current leadership. And no dedicated background seat on the Local or National Boards. 

 

11. UFS Fiction: We created a dedicated Background Actor department at SAG-AFTRA after merger.

Union Truth: A dedicated SAG Background Actor department existed long before merger. After merger, due to staff lay-offs, background actors' contractual needs were combined with stunts, singers and dancers - creating a backlog of unheard and unresolved grievances. MF led the fight to reestablish a dedicated Background Actor department – and succeeded!

 

12. UFS Fiction: UFS “achieved dancer and background coverage in Music Videos.”

Union Truth: After background actors were left out of the 2012 Music Video organizing and contract negotiations, President Carteris appointed a MV negotiating committee without a background actor representative. It was only after intense lobbying by MF that a NON-VOTING MembershipFirst background actor was added. Without that voice, coverage never would have been achieved. That UFS is taking sole credit for this is an obvious attempt to win background actor votes by falsely claiming to be solely responsible for something that they were not. And it was dancers, in fact, who stood behind background actors in solidarity.


13. UFS Fiction: "Organized Telemundo - the first TV network to unionize in 65 years!"

Union Truth:  It is always good to organize new work, but this UFS-led deal deliberately and explicitly excluded from coverage background actors and stunt coordinators, set principal pay at approximately one-fifth of principal pay in the TV/Theatrical contract, and waived the initiation fee for those new Telemundo members. The deal itself was hidden from members - and the Univision contracts in the 1980s paid far more in real dollars.


14. UFS Fiction: In 2008, MF walked away from the joint TV/Theatrical negotiations with AFTRA, creating split earnings and costing the membership $100 million.

Union Truth: This is a complete distortion of past negotiation history. AFTRA made a power play by violating the long-standing Phase One Agreement, under which both unions bargained jointly, by leaving the table and cutting a deal on their own, deleveraging SAG and leaving it without a new contract for almost a year. Without AFTRA's duplicity, the unions would have been able to achieve gains that have escaped us to this day. SAG National Executive Director Doug Allen proposed sending the “final offer” to the members, but the UFS majority declined. What UFS really wanted was to fire Doug Allen. UFS delayed even further a deal they helped shutter in the first place, costing members millions and sending work to AFTRA, leaving us with the split earnings problem that persists to this day.


15. UFS Fiction: In 2002, MembershipFirst walked away from sister union AFTRA and the ATA agent negotiations, helping create the agent problem actors still face today. 

Union Truth:  It was the membership of SAG - not MembershipFirst – who rejected the 2002 ATA deal, because it gave franchised agents the ability to own, or to be owned by, employers – a complete conflict of interest. AFTRA took a $500,000 bribe to accept that deal. In fact, we fought some of the same issues the WGA is fighting today, seventeen years later - a fight President Carteris and UFS have refused to fully support. 

 

16. UFS Fiction: MembershipFirst brought you the commercial strike of 2000, leading to the proliferation of non-union commercials - and the union still hasn’t recovered. 

Union Truth: There was no group known as MembershipFirst in 2000. The 2000 commercials strike was voted up UNANIMOUSLY (220 - 0) BY EVERY SINGLE SAG & AFTRA NATIONAL BOARD MEMBER.  The 2000 Commercials Committee was made up of 13 SAG members and 13 AFTRA members, all of whom voted to strike, including the AFTRA chair – and an overwhelming 92% of voting members agreed. If we had taken the deal as it was presented, it would have lowered our commercial earnings by one-third. The strike prevented a terrible deal and secured tremendous gains that have doubled commercial earnings. That agreement - which also secured coverage in New Media - has evolved into the successful recent flexible-use contract and various beneficial components like the Regional Commercials Code and the Low Budget Digital waiver, which, UFS takes exclusive credit for.

 

17. UFS Fiction:  MembershipFirst files countless lawsuits that cost the union millions of dollars of our dues money to fight.

Union Truth: The right to sue one's union is sacrosanct in every union doctrine. It is often the only recourse when internal remedies fail to resolve an issue - and when a union refuses to abide not only by its own rules, but by Department of Labor rules and regulations, it is a member’s only recourse. The merger lawsuit was ruled to be valid for future consideration if the pension plans are harmed. UFS' tactics of shutting down dissent have often left no other recourse possible. In fact, it is UFS and their political allies that have made a habit of filing fraudulent charges against members who don't parrot their agenda. Both National Secretary/Treasurer and Local President Jane Austin and member Louis Herthum are just two recent examples of individuals who have been exonerated from false accusations - and UFS continues to pursue unsubstantiated charges against other members. This has not only cost the union thousands of dollars in legal fees – but forced each accused member to pay thousands in legal expenses as well. 

Truth vs Fiction – who do you believe?