FIX THE SPLIT-EARNINGS GAP
WHY IS SPLIT-EARNINGS AN ISSUE? Performers continue to suffer from our earnings being split into TWO pension Plans. The work we do in film funnels into our SAG Pension; while almost half (43%) of our work in television funnels into our AFTRA Retirement Fund. Below is an example of how a member who qualifies for our top health insurance plan would be unable to qualify for a pension credit in either Plan and would be ineligible to receive future benefits from earnings that year.
$22,000.00 is required to earn 1 annual SAG pension credit
$15,000.00 is required to earn 1 annual AFTRA pension credit
$22,000.00 + $15,000.00 = $37,000.00 required earnings to receive both pension credits
A member can earn up to $36,998 and earn zero pension credits in either Plan.
In other words, in a certain year you can earn $21,999 in SAG work, and $14,999 in AFTRA work and qualify for nothing.
WHAT IS OUR SOLUTION? Membership First understands the profound importance of this split-earnings issue and how it affects our retirement security. It is a top priority for us to push the trustees to fix this broken system.
ATTENTION YOUNG PERFORMERS: This disproportionately affects YOU, who work but may never qualify for a pension. You may not be thinking about it now, but when retirement rolls around and there is nothing there for you, it will matter.
BE SMART WITH OUR MONEY
Owning vs. Renting
ISSUE: A staggering $6 million per year is being spent on renting our SAG-AFTRA offices in Los Angeles alone. Many more millions of dollars are also wasted annually on office rents around the country. Additionally, our membership’s money has been wasted renovating offices that we do not own.
WHY IS THIS AN ISSUE? Because in past decades, while we have been paying rent, we could have purchased our own building with all the equity, appreciation and security that comes along with it. The DGA, WGA, Actors Equity, IATSE, Musicians Local 47, Teamsters 399--even our SAG-AFTRA Pension and Health Plan--own their offices.
WHAT IS OUR SOLUTION? Own our offices. We won’t hide from the responsibility of ownership. Instead, we will take the natural step of acquiring real estate assets, consistent with good judgment and sound financial planning. The equity we can accrue opens up endless possibilities. Imagine the buying power that could re-open local brick-and-mortar offices across the country closed by the current leadership.
ISSUE: Our Pension and Retirement Plans secretly benefit certain participants more than others.
A BRIEF HISTORY: In 2004 the National Board welcomed our Staff into our SAG Pension Plan. At that time all members of our SAG Pension Plan (including our Staff) accrued at 3.5%. After the 2008 economic meltdown, SAG Pension Trustees had to take drastic action: “The pension accrual rate will be reduced from its current 3.5% to 2.0% of Covered Earnings.” *
This action was implemented January 1, 2010. We have since discovered, at our own expense, that no reduction was ever implemented for our Staff. To this day we--the Members--are still accruing at 2% while our Staff has continued to accrue at 3.5%. Unbeknownst to Member Participants, SAG Pension Trustees created this elite group within The Plan.
*Reference: Take-2, Volume XVII, Number 2, Summer 2009.
WHY IS THIS AN ISSUE? MembershipFirst believes that SAG Pension Trustees should protect all SAG Pension Plan Participants equally. It’s a simple question of fairness and equality: Our Members must work much longer, and earn much more, to receive a lesser benefit than our own employees. This was never the understanding of the Member Participants of The Plan and must be corrected.
EXAMPLE: You, as a Member Participant, have to wait 10 years longer to retire with full benefits and receive thousands of dollars less than our Staff. Below is an example:
SAG member: Working from age 35 to 55. Earning $50,000 per year. Retiring at age 55. Gets $14,000 per year. (30% reduction in benefit from age 65 to 55.)
AFTRA member: Working from age 35 to 55. Earning $50,000 per year. Retiring at age 55. Gets $4,000 per year. (60% reduction in benefit from age 65 to 55.)
Staff member: Working from age 35 to 55. Earning $50,000 per year. Retiring at age 55. Gets $35,000 per year. (NO reduction in benefit at age 55.)
The preceding is based on the Staff’s Rule of 75* benefit vs. the SAG member participant accrual rate of 2% of earnings, and the AFTRA member participant accrual rate of approximately 1% of earnings.
*THE RULE OF 75: This is an additional benefit for Staff who have a combination of Age-and-Service that adds up to 75. (20 years of service at 55 years of age would be 75.) When a Staff person hits the Rule of 75 a whole new deal appears: Here, the Staff person receives a pension benefit equal to their last 5 years of earnings averaged, with a maximum annual benefit of $225,000. The SAG Members’ annual maximum is $96,000 at age 65 with 35 vested years.
WHAT IS OUR SOLUTION? Our current Trustees have known about this pension inequity for nearly a decade and have allowed this secret to remain in effect. MembershipFirst will take every action to correct this imbalance.
ATTENTION STUNT PERFORMERS: A career in stunts demands a high level of physicality and risk, culminating in premature wear and tear to the body. Our Pension and Retirement Plans fail to acknowledge the unique demands that are placed upon stunt performers. Having longevity in a stunt career is extremely rare and uniquely difficult. Therefore we believe our Trustees must allow Stunt Performers to take full retirement without reduction at age 55.
COMBAT SEXUAL HARASSMENT
ISSUE: Ask yourself this: Do you feel protected by your union? Sexual harassment, coercion and assault are still rampant in the entertainment industry. 94% of women in the entertainment industry surveyed by USA TODAY (February 23, 2018) say they’ve experienced harassment or assault. Workplace and industry-wide safety has not been prioritized for women and men to the degree that it should have been, and there is a shocking lack of urgency toward implementing the necessary changes.
WHY IS THIS AN ISSUE? The current lack of transparency in the reporting process protects predators rather than the member-survivor. Survivors have neither received adequate support from our union, nor a proper arena to voice their concerns. When reporting set or audition transgressions, traumatized victims have to relive and retell their story multiple times. The current policy disregards the latest research on trauma. Retaliation against survivors is real.
WHAT IS OUR SOLUTION? The safety of our members, whether physical or emotional, is of paramount concern. We are proud that MembershipFirst was the driving force in initiating the first Sexual Harassment Task Force and the first-ever Sexual Harassment Caucus.
Mandate Intimacy Coordinators on every set when appropriate under negotiated union contracts with penalties for non-compliance.
Streamline the reporting process: revamp the existing emergency hotline to be answered by trauma-informed therapists, not by an answering service that refers to an outside agency, as is currently the case.
Provide members an impartial, anonymous and retaliation-free reporting platform that tracks repeat abusers and provides legal and other resources.
Member-to-member complaints: A third-party impartial investigative team should be engaged whenever a member-to-member sexual harassment, assault or coercion complaint is lodged.
Develop Safety Seminars clearly defining sexual harassment, sexual assault, consent and coercion. Seminars will provide concrete steps and options for reporting sexual misconduct as well as raise awareness around resources available to victims.
Trauma training should be made available to leadership, union members and staff and required for all involved in the reporting process; including intake, the Disciplinary Committee and adjudicators.
At the start of production, require an all cast, crew and production safety meeting regarding sexual harassment. Distribute handouts of rules and regulations regarding sexual harassment definitions, penalties, reporting guidelines, etc., to all cast, crew, and production entities. As a condition of employment a Signature of Compliance would be required.
Require posting of state and federal laws concerning sexual harassment in common areas: i.e., craft services, hair and make-up, wardrobe, production, background holding areas, and bathrooms.
MembershipFirst will continue to lead the fight to protect our members from sexual abuse and misconduct. We will work with independent organizations to provide all members the ability to report privately, hold repeat offenders accountable, and most importantly, heal.
ISSUE: The current leadership uses the “cloak of confidentiality” to limit your ability to know what is actually going on and limits the ability to tell you. For 20 years there has been a “Minority Report” Rule* ensuring that when 25% or more of the National Board voted against a contract, the Minority could send out a “Minority Report.” The current leadership raised the threshold to 33%, making it even harder to get the pros and cons of a contract presented to you.
*Minority Report definition: A separate report presented by members of a committee or other group who disagree with the majority.
Do you ever wonder about those shiny postcards you receive, paid for with your dues money--telling you how to vote--with no actual information? Each postcard mailing costs the Union approximately $45,000; and over $180,000 was spent pushing our 2017 TV/Theatrical contract.
WHY IS THIS AN ISSUE? Without a Minority Report, you are limited in your ability to make a fully informed and educated decision about your contract.
WHAT IS OUR SOLUTION? MembershipFirst will reverse the practice of the current leadership keeping vital information from you, enabling you to be an educated and informed member.