SAG-AFTRA Board Reups David White for 3-Year Term

David White P 2012

The board also approves a $95 million budget – but income figures suggest that resources are stretched thin.

Meeting for the first time, the national board of SAG-AFTRA voted overwhelmingly to confirm David White as national executive director and approved a new three year employment contract for him in that capacity. That represents a 15 month extension, as his current contract was set to expire in February 2014.

The extension signals that White is likely to remain at the helm through four of the large pieces of union business over the next several years: the fall negotiation of the commercials contract (which expires next March 31), the union’s first elections and convention (spring or summer 2013), negotiation of the TV/theatrical contract, and working with the legally separate SAG and AFTRA pension and health plans as they move towards a likely merger.

“We’ve achieved a tremendous success with our recent merger, but there is much more to be done,” White said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the officers, directors and our talented staff team to continue to improve our operations and further empower and serve the members.”

Story: Three Big Challenges for the Merged Union (Analysis)

The February 2014 contract expiration of White’s contract would have been awkward, since the TV/theatrical agreements expire just four months later, on June 30, 2014.

White, a former SAG general counsel, served as the guild’s NED from 2009 until the merger on March 30. He and AFTRA’s Kim Roberts Hedgpeth then became co-NEDs of SAG-AFTRA. Hedgpeth announced her departure less than three weeks later, stepping down effective April 30. His new contract expires May 21, 2015.

In other business, the board approved a $95 million budget for fiscal year 2013, including $2.7 million from reserves. The union didn’t release a projection of revenue for the year, which began May 1 of this year. However, CFO Arianna Ozzanto disclosed in a March legal filing in connection with the now-concluded anti-merger lawsuit that dues income for the year was forecast at about $6 million per month, or $72 million.

That suggests a $20 million difference that would be met from other sources of income, such as initiation fees ($3,000 per new member, at least in major cities; recent data SAG and AFTRA federal filings suggests that no more than 2,000-3,000 new members are likely in a year, which translates to $6-$9 million), investment income (which was under $1 million in fiscal year 2011, the most recent data publicly available), SAG Awards license fees (which appear to have been at most $8 million in fiscal year 2011) and sales of investments (investment assets totaled about $42 million in mid-2011).

In other words, the budget appears tight at best.

The board also set July 2 as the start date for the union’s “wages and working conditions” process for the commercials contract. W&W is the forum for union members to provide input on issues and priorities. A W&W committee totaling 17 members and 9 alternates will be appointed by the board, based on recommendations from union co-presidents Ken Howard and Roberta Reardon in consultation with the committee chairs, who have already been appointed but whose names were not released. The committee will develop contract proposals based on input from staff and members.

In another area, music videos, the union has been engaged in difficult negotiations with major labels in order to reach agreement on a contract for dancers. Today’s press release noted “substantial movement in negotiations (and) newly productive discussions.” The board delegated to White the authority to issue a Do Not Work Order if talks falter.

The board also gave some relief to members who may be delinquent on back dues. Former dual cardholders – i.e., SAG-AFTRA members who had belonged to both AFTRA and SAG – will not be responsible for delinquent dues that predate the May 2007 billing, provided that they had paid a full initiation fee to either union. They’re still responsible for any due billed from that date onwards, as well as any fines that were levied.

In addition, the union said that any members who are on payment plans for delinquent dues “will be cleared for work, though not considered to be in good standing.” They’ll need to fulfill the terms of the payment plan, or roll the amount owed into a new payment plan, with a maximum duration of one year.

The board left in place the current interim fee waiver schedule, which applies to smaller locals. A proposal to raise those fees drew “fierce opposition,” according to a report on the SAGAFTRAWatch blog.

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Twitter: @jhandel