'Ellen' Show Playing a Musicians Union Tune

 Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

Producers of The Ellen DeGeneres Show have agreed to pay musical guest performers under American Federation of Musicians contracts, the union’s Local 47 announced Wednesday. The move came after what the Local said was “years of urging.”

According to the union, musicians performing on “Ellen” previously received wages and benefits under SAG-AFTRA contracts and were categorized as “specialty acts” rather than musicians, a distinction disputed by Local 47.

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“Starting today AFM musicians will be paid appropriately under our agreements,” Local 47 vice president John Acosta said. “We thank our counterparts at ‘Ellen’ for doing the right thing.”

Acosta spearheaded negotiations three years ago with “Ellen” producers Telepictures, a division of Warner Bros., and more recently increased efforts to reach agreement. A Warner Bros. spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

SAG-AFTRA welcomed the news. “We congratulate the two parties on this successful agreement,” said SAG-AFTRA’s assistant national executive director for sound recordings Randall Himes in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “’The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ continues to be a valuable signatory with SAG-AFTRA, and we are pleased that the Professional Musicians, Local 47 of AFM joins us in this partnership.”

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According to the AFM, the applicable SAG-AFTRA contracts do not include the provisions for residuals and re-use payments to musicians that are covered under AFM contracts. The AFM also asserted that “Per labor standards, if two or more unions have overlapping jurisdiction, workers must be compensated at the higher prevailing rate.”

It was not immediately possible to verify the latter two claims.

The AFM noted that “Ellen” does not employ a house band, but rather DJ Tony Okungbowa, who works under a SAG-AFTRA contract.

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