It's That (SAG-AFTRA) Time of Year ...
  • Friday, Dec. 17, 2021

It’s that time again. The current SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract and the SAG-AFTRA Audio Commercials Contract (the "Commercial Contracts") will expire on March 31, 2021, and negotiations for successor contracts will begin early next year. The ANA-4A’s Joint Policy Committee on Broadcast Talent Union Relations (the “JPC”), the bargaining unit that represents the industry in the negotiations, has issued a notice all JPC authorizers that explains their options for the upcoming negotiations. An “authorizer” is a brand or agency that has authorized the JPC to negotiate on its behalf.  

The options boil down to the following:

  • Do nothing.  If you do nothing, you remain an authorizer for the upcoming negotiations and will be bound by the new collective bargaining agreements, when negotiations are completed.
  • Withdraw.  If you no longer wish to have the JPC negotiate the Commercials Contracts on your behalf, you can withdraw your authorization by providing notice to the JPC and to SAG-AFTRA. According to the notice, the deadline for sending your withdrawal notice is January 31, 2021. 
  • Terminate your status as a signatory.  If you wish to terminate your status as a signatory to the Commercials Contracts, you must provide sixty days’ written notice to SAG-AFTRA. Termination is a complicated process. The JPC strongly recommends that authorizers considering taking this route "consult with your legal counsel before making any decision." This is sage counsel. As the JPC points out, a signatory that is attempting to terminate likely will have to bargain directly with SAG-AFTRA until either it successfully reaches agreement with the union on a new direct agreement or bargains to impasse. And if the agency/brand bargains to impasse, it may be liable for withdrawal liability to the SAG-Producers Pension Plan and the AFTRA-Producers Retirement Fund – i.e., for its share of the amount by which these plans are underfunded. For this reason, the JPC also recommends that any agency/advertiser considering terminating "request an estimate of your potential withdrawal liability from the SAG‐Producers Pension Plan and the AFTRA Retirement Fund prior to notifying the Union of your intent to terminate.

The JPC also has asked the industry for input for the 2021 negotiations. It has fielded a survey and requested responses. 

And, finally, the JPC invites brands and agencies to "support the JPC’s vital industry efforts" and become a JPC authorizer (and signatory to the Commercials Contracts). For more information on how to sign up, you can contact the JPC directly.

Brian G. Murphy is Partner at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz where he counsels advertising agencies, advertisers, and entertainment companies as they develop and produce advertising and entertainment properties across all media. Mr. Murphy was named 2018 Attorney of the year for Advertising and Entertainment Law by Best Lawyers.

This column presents a general discussion of legal issues, but is not legal advice and may not be applicable in all situations. Consult your attorney. To contact Brian G. Murphy ESQ click here.

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Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz

Founded more than 40 years ago as a boutique entertainment law firm in New York City, Frankfurt Kurnit now provides the highest quality legal services to clients in a wide range of industries and disciplines worldwide. With leading practices in advertising, entertainment, IP, technology, privacy, litigation, corporate, estate planning, charitable organizations, professional responsibility and other areas — Frankfurt Kurnit can help you face challenging legal and business issues and meet your goals with efficient and practical solutions.

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