Well before dawn on Sunday, a pair of SAG-AFTRA contract reps raced 140 miles into the arid desert north of Los Angeles to intercept and document a non-union Cadillac shoot at the remote Inyokern Airport — and to identify the union members reportedly working the commercial, in violation of a rule printed on the back of every member’s union card that prohibits them from taking non-union work.
Like prospectors of old — or, perhaps, more like today’s California Highway Patrol — the reps found their quarry. They took extensive photographs, then for good measure hung out a bright yellow banner emblazoned with the union logo and “We See You.” Now the union is planning to initiate proceedings against the offending members for violation of SAG-AFTRA’s Global Rule 1. “You don’t violate the solidarity,” SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s so fundamental to unionism.”
The desolate airport may be about a hundred miles to civilization in any direction — Bakersfield, Palmdale, San Bernardino — but members who work non-union may find it a short ride to what the union described in a tweet as “disciplinary action which can result in fines, suspension or expulsion.”
Although working “off the card” is a violation for members, the union can’t discipline Cadillac — non-signatory companies can make non-union commercials via non-signatory ad agencies — but SAG-AFTRA hopes to make clear that it views the marque as less than a luxury ride. A campaign directed at Jessica Alba’s Honest Company persuaded the brand to go union in just two days last September.
The enforcement moves come against the background of the commercials agreement negotiations that are expected to commence next month in advance of a March 31 expiration.
“Making the contract more robust doesn’t always make the contract more challenging for signatory companies,” said White. “We’re all coming to the table together. The union understands the changing needs of the market and is creating innovative contracts that allow for flexibility while ensuring that performers are compensated and treated fairly.”
It was not immediately known what ad agency commissioned the High Desert shoot at an airfield that’s seemingly home to more car commercials than actual arrivals and departures, but Cadillac’s agencies of record are Publicis Worldwide and Rokkan, both owned by Publicis Groupe, one of a small number of international ad agency holding companies. A review of casting notices indicates that Rokkan has commissioned non-union commercials for the brand over the past two years (and also that Cadillac has used an entirely different company, the McCann unit of Interpublic, for a union commercial). Neither Cadillac nor Rokkan responded to a request for comment.
Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, another Publicis unit, Bartle Bogle Hegerty, has been trying to abandon its SAG-AFTRA agreement altogether, something the union says is impermissible. The latest in a series of protests against BBH is set to take place Wednesday, with a march commencing at SAG-AFTRA headquarters at 11:45 a.m., culminating in a one-hour rally at the La Brea Tar Pits beginning at noon. Said White, “Working off the card is totally unacceptable.”