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Esai Morales Urges ‘No’ Vote on SAG-AFTRA Contract

Variety logo Variety 7/20/2017 Dave McNary
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SAG-AFTRA presidential candidate Esai Morales has urged members of the performers union to vote down the proposed tentative agreement on a three-year successor deal to its master contract.

Morales contends that the pact, which has been sent out to the 160,000 members for ratification, falls far short of what performers need. Ratification ballots will be counted on Aug. 7.

“The nominal gains in this agreement do not match the cost of living increases in the real world,” Morales said in a video posted Wednesday on the Membership First group’s Facebook page. “Send them back to the table.”

Morales detailed problems with changes in the travel costs, basic cable, motion-capture, and background players, asserting that SAG-AFTRA leaders had promised to rectify perceived abuses and have failed to do so.

He also questioned why the union leadership reached a deal at 6 a.m. on July 4, asserting that fatigue may have played a factor in making concessions in the tentative agreement. Morales also said that he did not understand the tactic of promising to seek a strike authorization from members, but then never following through — as the Writers Guild of America had done in April prior to reaching its deal.

“Why did they go into negotiations without that authorization in their back pocket?” Morales asked.

Morales and SAG-AFTRA secretary-treasurer Jane Austin had announced on June 12 that they would run on the Membership First ticket, but said that they would not comment on negotiations until a deal was reached. SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers adhered to a news blackout that lasted more than a month.

The union leaders never disclosed the specifics of their proposals, except at a closed-door meeting on June 28 in Studio City. The new deal, if ratified, provides for $256 million in increased pay over the three years, with minimums increasing by 2.5% in the first year, 3% in the second year, and 3% in the third year. The union has said that the tentative deal includes “significant improvements” in the residuals rate for streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon.

The contract covers work by SAG-AFTRA members that generates more than $1 billion in annual compensation. The SAG-AFTRA national board approved the deal, which covers primetime TV and feature films, on July 15 to trigger the ratification vote. Morales is a member of that board, which voted 77% in favor of the deal.

Morales is running against stuntman Peter Antico and SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, who recently announced that she was running for re-election on the Unite for Strength slate. Ballots will go out to union members on July 25 and the results will be announced on Aug. 24.

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