• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Anti-SAG-AFTRA Lawsuit Raises Many Issues, Targets Union Leadership (Analysis)

* Delay in Residuals Processing. The complaint asserts that the delay in processing residuals payments has increased three-fold (the complaint doesn’t say over what period). The union disputes that figure, stating that residuals processing took 45 days premerger and is at about 60 days now. That’s twice the union’s target of 30 days, but SAG-AFTRA says that merger required integrating two very different IT systems, SAG’s and AFTRA’s, and that the number of residuals checks received has more than doubled in five years, from 1.8 million checks per year in 2008 to approximately 4 million forecast for 2013.

* Relative Size of SAG/SAG-AFTRA Foreign Royalties vs. DGA and WGA. The complaint critically contrasts the amount of foreign royalties collected by SAG, which the complaint pegs at “less than fifteen million (dollars),” to the over 100 million dollars collected by each of the other two guilds.

Per the audited reports of each guild, the approximate total amounts collected are WGA $148 million (through FY 2012), DGA at least $92 million (though FY 2011) and SAG $23 million (through FY 2012). So the SAG figures are indeed substantially lower than the other two unions -- but the union says there’s a reason for that: International intellectual property treaties only recognize rights for “authors” (i.e., writers and directors), rather than for performers. As a result, said the union, fewer countries provide for royalties for foreign performers. The union added that the WIPO Beijing Audiovisual Performances Treaty would improve this situation, but that it is pending ratification and entry into force.

* First-Class Travel. The complaint asserts that “fiduciary duties owing to the Union membership (may) have been compromised because of the expenditure of Union funds on First Class travel,” and in an email to THR Wise was unequivocal: “The fact that the Labor Organization continues to pay for First Class Airfare while surrendering this benefit for its members in contract negotiations is disturbing and warrants further scrutiny.”

The union responded that “the union's practice is that no one travels first class at SAG-AFTRA's expense, except that the co-presidents are authorized to do so by the union’s travel policy, and business class travel is authorized under certain circumstances.”

Bookmark The Hollywood Reporter’s Labor Page for the most in-depth coverage of entertainment unions and guilds.

E-mail: jhandel99 at gmail dot com

Twitter: @jhandel