June 1st marks a welcome change for Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) members as they will see a modernized payment structure thanks to a new, innovative commercials contract. Indeed, 96.85% of the SAG-AFTRA national board cast their ballots on May 8th to ratify a three-year commercials contract which union leaders describe as a “landmark” deal. It introduces three different flat-fee payment options to adapt to the ever-evolving structure of the advertising industry.

The union explained in a video, “Technology, innovation and 24/7 media platforms have disrupted the traditional advertising model that our commercials contract was built on. An evolving industry required a new approach to compensation that is simple, flexible and predictable.”

The traditional elements of the SAG-AFTRA contract are still available for advertisers who prefer to keep things the same; however, the three alternative payment options are now also available in the form of Upfront Use Packages. Specifically, there are three bundles from which advertisers can choose: Upfront Plus, Upfront Flex, and Upfront Digital. Please watch the above video to learn about the flexibility of the components associated with each model. In a nutshell, under this new model, performers are paid for usage upfront and it provides the employer the knowledge of what the commercial will cost before it is made. 

Here are some key features of the contracts:

  • New Upfront Use Packages provide performers with substantial upfront payments, creating simple and flexible structures for employers. This allows SAG-AFTRA to cover more work opportunities under the contract.
  • Members will earn across-the-board wage increases of 6 percent which applies to all categories of work, including background work.
  • Members have access to increased funding to the health and retirement/pension plans estimated at $22.2 million.
  • Members have protections against workplace sexual harassment such as placing limits on auditions in hotel rooms and private residences.
  • Members have coverage of stunt coordinators.
  • Outsized gains to group dancers.
  • Streamlined and radically improved renegotiation process for commercial agents representing SAG-AFTRA members.

The new agreement was finalized by SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee (JPC) on April 2 after a month-and-a-half of negotiations in New York City. The pact was then put into effect retroactively from April 1, 2019, through March 31, 2022. The new Upfront Use Packages will be available on June 1.

As the video states, “SAG-AFTRA and its bargaining partners heard the call for change. We worked together to create these innovative payment models to benefit both the advertising industry and its union performers.”

SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, who chaired the guild’s negotiating committee said, “This is a historic moment for our members, our union and this industry. Committed members from around the country created new contract options for an evolving commercial landscape. Our strength is always in our unity.”

The guild’s national executive director and chief negotiators, David White, stated, “Members will see across-the-board wage increases for all categories of work, increases to benefit plans, coverage of stunt coordinators, outsized gains to group dancers, protections against workplace sexual harassment, and streamlined process for commercial agents representing SAG-AFTRA members. I applaud President Carteris, our terrific member negotiating committee and our superb staff for securing these breakthrough achievements.”

The new arrangement seeks to improve the earnings of SAG-AFTRA’s approximately 160,000 film and television actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, radio personalities, recording artists, singers, dancers, voiceover actors, stunt performers and other media professionals across the globe. The JPC represents advertisers and advertising agencies who have authorized them to collectively bargain on their behalf with SAG-AFTRA and the American Federation of Musicians, on the collective bargaining agreements that govern the use of performers and musicians in commercials.

To read the agreement, click here. And actors can learn more about the new deal by visiting sagaftra.org/commercials2019.