Hollywood Unions Forge New Contracts, But Who's Getting the Best Deal?

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From left: DGA's Jay Roth, WGA's David Young, SAG-AFTRA's David White and AMPTP's Carol Lombardini

THR breaks down the new agreements for the actors, directors and writers guilds to see how they compare.

SAG-AFTRA's July 4 sunrise pact made it the third and final above-the-line Hollywood union to reach a new deal since December, so THR analyzed how the labor contracts stack up against one another. The negotiations were led by then-DGA national executive director Jay Roth, WGA executive director David Young, SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White and, for the studios, AMPTP president Carol Lombardini.

While all three collective bargaining agreements secured nominal annual wage increases of 3 percent, the DGA and WGA contracts were subjected to carveouts in major television wage categories including primetime network, premium cable and high-budget streaming series. In addition, writers pay will be subject to four 0.5 percent diversions to their troubled health plan, whereas directors and actors will require just a single 0.5 percent diversion each to their pension plans. The net effect: 1 percent yearly scale increases for the WGA, 1.5 percent for directors but 2.5 percent to 3 percent for the actors. The DGA's below the line members, ADs and UPMs,receive full nominal 3 percent increases, and they account for a substantial salary component of DGA television compensation.

SAG-AFTRA, which says its pact is worth $256 million ($56 million more than 2014's), also prevailed in broadcast syndication and basic cable residuals, avoiding the slowed rate increase agreed to by the other guilds. Setting the precedent for the other two unions, the DGA scored a big jump in SVOD residuals, yielding triple the rate in the top subscriber tier for the first two years of streaming. The DGA also obtained union-specific gains in a subset of SVOD, namely made-for-SVOD movies.

The WGA's biggest wins were expanding the group eligible under its holds and exclusivity provision and obtaining overages for writers working more than 2.6 weeks average per episode. The guild also was the only one to score parental leave, albeit unpaid.

Certain factions also achieved raises: assistant directors and unit production managers in the DGA and background players and stunt coordinators in SAG-AFTRA — for the actors union, an important achievement for two key constituencies as its presidential election gets underway. Incumbent Gabrielle Carteris of the Unite for Strength party, unanimously elected by the national board to the post a year ago to fill out the late Ken Howard's term, will be facing off against Membership First's Esai Morales and former MF member Pete Antico. The politics may have made tough talk seem necessary to union leaders, sending the negotiations down to the wire and beyond. Said SAG-AFTRA's White, "This negotiation was a heavy lift." 

This story first appeared in the July 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.