SAG-AFTRA Strikes Against BBH; Agency Contends Union Contract Put It At Competitive Disadvantage
In this Jan. 21, 2018, file photo, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris speaks at the 24th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall in Los Angeles. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Invision/AP, File)
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SAG-AFTRA has called a strike against advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, LLC (BBH) after the union’s National Board unanimously voted to issue a strike authorization. Members have been instructed to not accept any work for BBH, which the union contends is illegally attempting to abandon its contract with SAG-AFTRA. 

BBH, a global agency with U.S. offices in New York and Los Angeles, has been signed to SAG-AFTRA’s Commercials Contracts since 1999, according to the union. On Sept. 5, BBH publicly announced it would “not renew our participation as a signatory to the SAG-AFTRA contract.”

“The integrity of good business is based upon parties adhering to their mutual contracts. BBH’s decision to abandon their commitment and responsibilities to our collective bargaining agreement by shooting non-union is not only unethical, it undermines a working actor’s right to fair wages, health care and on-set safety. These actions are unacceptable, and we will take a stand. Strength in unity,” said Gabrielle Carteris, president of SAG-AFTRA.

David White, SAG-AFTRA national executive director, stated, “There is nothing more sacred to our members than our collective bargaining agreements. They ensure fair pay and protections that enable performers to make a living wage and care for their families. BBH is now attempting to walk out on our agreement and ignore their obligations. This strike will deny BBH access to our talented actors who perform in commercials. We ask that members stand together and refuse all work for this company,”

BBH responded with a statement which read, “We do not expect the strike to have any noticeable impact on our company or any ongoing client work, especially as we have been a non-signatory to the SAG-AFTRA contract since November 2017. BBH remains focused on delivering high quality and innovative work to our clients. We also continue to value highly the creative talent we work with and remain committed to fair wages and working conditions.”

BBH is owned by Publicis Groupe, a multinational communications and marketing company that owns several ad agencies. Some of those agencies are signed to the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contracts, including Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett. The strike is called against BBH only, therefore members can work for other signatory Publicis Groupe ad agencies--or any other agency signed to the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contracts--during the strike.

Competitive disadvantage?
As alluded to, back on Sept. 5 BBH U.S. issued a message to actors who work with the agency. The statement contended that the union contract put the agency at a competitive disadvantage in a marketplace that has changed dramatically over the years. Here’s that statement in its entirety:

“BBH US is privileged to work with the creative community’s best of the best. We thank you for being our partner in the work we love, using our combined creative power to produce ambitious ideas for ambitious clients. Your involvement in our work is crucial to delivering the high-caliber products our clients have come to expect from us.

“It’s precisely because we respect your contribution that we want to communicate directly to you about why BBH US has decided to exercise our legal right to not renew our participation as a signatory to the SAG-AFTRA contract.

“In short, we are hired to operate in the best interests of our clients, and part of that is being able to deliver the greatest level of flexibility and value for the work we do. We are simply looking to level the playing field for all of us. The current contract was put in place nearly 20 years ago, when the internet was in its infancy and the advertising world was a vastly different place, with vastly different economics. The cutting-edge work we do at BBH US across all mediums is not well-served by a contract that was designed for a traditional media landscape. The need for speed, agility, and greater efficiencies in how we produce work has become increasingly important in today’s market. Many of our peer agencies are not signatories, making it hard to compete sustainably in a way that benefits our clients.

“We immensely value the creative talent we work with, and this decision does not change our commitment to fair wages and working conditions. We simply need the flexibility that this current contract does not allow in order to continue to do great work with great actors, both SAG-AFTRA and non-SAG-AFTRA talent alike.

“It is unfortunate that the current SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract has placed signatory agencies at a competitive disadvantage. In withdrawing as a signatory, BBH US can operate in precisely the same manner as its peer agencies, providing work opportunities to performers across the full spectrum of the creative community.”

The BBH statement concluded, “While this was a difficult decision, it was one we had no choice but to make. We look forward to continuing to collaborate on work for some of the most innovative marketers in the world.”



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