SAG-AFTRA Top Execs Reap Larger Pay Increases Than Employees

Koury Angelo
David White, SAG-AFTRA national executive director

The union’s chief leadership saw jumps in pay while members and typical SAG-AFTRA employees received modest increases.

Most SAG-AFTRA top executives garnered compensation increases in the last year of 7 percent or more – in some cases 30 percent or more – while the union’s average staff salary increased by just 4 percent, an analysis by The Hollywood Reporter of the organization’s newest federal report shows. That report, called an LM-2, was filed Monday, ten days late – and just ten days before ballots are due in the union’s national elections.

National executive director David White received a 7 percent hike, putting him at an annual salary of about $600,000. That still leaves him behind such counterparts as Jay Roth, the director of the smaller DGA (about $748,000), and AMPTP president and chief studio negotiator Carol Lombardini (almost $1.5 million), but ahead of the WGA West’s David Young ($528,000).

Randall Himes, formerly assistant national executive director for sound recordings and executive director of the union’s Nashville local, received a 73 percent raise, the biggest jump among the union staff’s top ten earners. The extra $158,000 in his compensation brought his total to about $374,000 and made him the second highest paid executive at the union. But that figure may be misleading, as it likely includes severance and/or accrued vacation paid as a result of Himes’ departure after working over three decades for SAG-AFTRA and AFTRA. The LM-2 does not distinguish ordinary salary from one-time payments.

Chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez’s compensation ($356,000) was up 33 percent and there were also hefty raises for COO/general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland ($321,000, up 18 percent), CFO Arianna Ozzanto ($312,000, up 30 percent), associate national executive director Mathis Dunn ($291,000, up 11 percent), chief HR officer Martha Lomeli Holdridge ($245,000, up 11 percent) and chief communications and marketing officer Pamela Greenwalt ($231,000, up 8 percent).

“The salary line item in an LM-2 report actually includes a combination of salary and other non-recurring payouts such as accrued vacation and other benefits in a given year,” a SAG-AFTRA spokesperson told THR.. “Salaries at all levels of staffing at SAG-AFTRA were adjusted last year to reflect an updated, comprehensive study that looked at standard compensation practices at similar labor and entertainment organizations.”

The hikes contrast with the 3 percent annual raises that SAG-AFTRA and the other guilds, the DGA and WGA, achieved in their most recent three-year TV/theatrical contracts (2.5 percent in the first year plus a 0.5 percent hike in pension and health contributions from employers, then 3 percent in each of the second and third years). Whether it’s reasonable to compare executives' increases with actors’ is an open question — and a politically sensitive one during the SAG-AFTRA election season.

Two of the ten highest compensated executives took pay cuts: senior advisor John McGuire ($270,000, down 8 percent) and associate executive director Richard Larkin ($252,000, down 3 percent). The union’s elected leadership received no compensation, as is generally the case with the above-the-line guilds.

Meanwhile, THR’s computations indicate that the median compensation for SAG-AFTRA staff in the most recent reporting period (May 2014 – April 2015) was $56,838, up a modest 4 percent from the previous year.

The union’s headcount shrank about 5 percent — it stands at roughly 537, down from 563, based on a count of employees who received at least $10,000 during the year, as listed in the report. However, that decrease was counterbalanced by the increase in median compensation, leaving total payroll essentially unchanged, at about $39 million. There was a pivot to the upper echelons, with the top ten earners receiving 14 percent more (or $406,000 in aggregate) than the previous year’s top ten list  – but a third of that figure is accountable to Himes’ increased compensation.

During the same time period, the union apparently made less but spent more, as far as can be told from the reports: receipts decreased by about $6 million to about $188 million and disbursements increased by about $7 million to $169 million. Those figures may not be as meaningful as they seem, due to arcane accounting rules surrounding the LM-2s, but SAG-AFTRA declines to release its more consistently prepared annual reports. Of the above-the-line guilds, only the WGA West provides readily digestible annual reporting to its members and the public.

The number of SAG-AFTRA members also remained essentially unchanged between the two most recent reports, at about 237,000, but there was a sharp increase in agency fee payers from 2,188 to 2,481. These are individuals, colloquially referred to as "financial core members" or as having "gone fi-core," who choose to pay somewhat less than full union dues but not become actual members of the union, usually because they either disagree with union policies (or unionism generally) or simply want the freedom to work non-union jobs as well as union gigs. Although the number is still only about one percent of the total membership, the cause of the unusual spike is unclear.

Updated 8/12/2015 12:30 p.m. with SAG-AFTRA response.

Updated 8/12/2015 5:14 p.m. with details regarding Randall Himes compensation.

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Email: jh@jhandel.com

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