AFTRA makes votes count

Union is using outside firm to oversee vital contract ratification

AFTRA isn't taking any chances with the ratification of its primetime/TV contract today.

The performers union has recruited longtime industry go-to firm Integrity Voting Systems to oversee the results of the vote on whether to pass the recently brokered contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

IVS has been used by several guilds, including SAG, for various ballots, including the annual SAG Awards and president Alan Rosenberg's election in 2005 as well as the joint primetime/TV contract three years ago.

AFTRA began using the 76-year-old firm in 2003. Since then, AFTRA has used IVS to oversee ratification of seven contracts, including the 2003 Consolidation and Affiliation pact; the 2004 and 2007 Network Code; as well as joint AFTRA/SAG referendum votes in 2003 and 2006 on their commercials contract and the 2004 and 2005 Exhibit A contract.

"Unions use reputable, established, experienced outside firms to facilitate the ratification voting process to ensure that polling is conducted with the utmost integrity," an AFTRA spokeswoman said. "This is the practice we have successfully adhered to with past contracts, and that is what AFTRA has done in the case of the primetime contract."

It's not unusual for such private groups as the Hollywood guilds and unions to use outside companies to receive and tally votes. The WGA uses a similar firm, Pacific Election Services, for its balloting.

"Many unions opt to conduct ratification votes themselves as there is no legal requirement to use an outside vendor and it's expensive," the AFTRA spokeswoman said.

AFTRA brokered a deal with the AMPTP on May 28 and since then has been engaged in a PR war with SAG over the contract.

IVS sent voting materials to AFTRA members June 17 with instructions to mail the completed ballot to the company's headquarters. The ballots are due back by 5 p.m. today, at which time IVS will begin counting the ballots it has accumulated over the three-week voting period.

Results are expected today or Wednesday. (partialdiff)