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“It Was ‘Only Through’ (Union) Solidarity ‘That We Were Able To Push Through And Get Done What We Needed To Get Done’” - SAG-AFTRA Reps Say Back-To-Work Deal Was The “Single Most Important Agreement” Union Has “Signed In Decades”

Published Wednesday, October 7, 2020
by David Robb-Labor Editor/
“It Was ‘Only Through’ (Union) Solidarity ‘That We Were Able To Push Through And Get Done What We Needed To Get Done’” - SAG-AFTRA Reps Say Back-To-Work Deal Was The “Single Most Important Agreement” Union Has “Signed In Decades”

(LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA) – In late September, The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) held webinars for the Union’s Membership and their Representatives regarding return-to-work protocols that were recently adopted by management’s AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) and Hollywood’s Guilds and Unions.

During the sessions, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris (pictured above) told Members that “charting a safe path back to work has been our number one priority,” and that the new agreement is “the single most important agreement we’ve signed in decades.”

SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White noted: “This is a process that we’ve been dealing with since the start of the (Coronavirus) Pandemic, but really in earnest to develop these safety protocols since late-April, early-May - and in the negotiations with the AMPTP since June.  And it was all something we’d hoped to complete by the end of June.  But it turns out that keeping people safe in a production environment is terribly complicated and it actually took us this long to negotiate these details and to ensure that our members would be safe on set.”

Like Carteris, White gave kudos to the other Unions involved in the talks, noting “there were ‘moments when each of us stood up for one another and held strong for the priorities of our Unions.’”

“We ‘stood strong’ with the Members of the Teamsters, IATSE (the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees), and the Directors Guild – ‘and they did the same for us at very key moments.’  ‘And it was only through that solidarity that we were able to push through and get done what we needed to get done,” White said.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel, - who played a major role in the negotiations, said: “This started out as a process that ‘we thought would be a lot faster and instead took over three-and-a-half months to get this agreement reached.’  But I think it is ‘really important and far-reaching’ and it’s ‘going to allow for a resumption of work in a way we haven’t seen yet’ – ‘and I know that’s something that our Members are extremely excited about.’”

He stressed, however, that “it is ‘important to recognize that this is not about creating an environment that is (100%) safe.’”

“There ‘is not,’ during this time of COVID, ‘a situation where we can guarantee (100%) safety, or that producers or anyone else can provide for 100% safety.’  So in everything we’re doing, ‘it’s about mitigating the risk and reducing the risk of COVID infection in connection with employment.’  And so ‘every single Member of SAG-AFTRA has to make the decision for themselves about what levels of risk they’re prepared to accept and whether it’s the right time for them to return to work.’  But for those ‘who are ready to return to work, we believe that the protocols that have been agreed to with the producers and the other unions do provide a level of safety in the work place that makes it appropriate for people to be able to return to work.’  And that is a ‘science-based’ decision – ‘this is not a political decision.’  ‘It is not an opinion or positioning.’  This is ‘based on guidance that we’ve received from the epidemiologists and industrial hygiene experts who’ve consulted with us and the other Unions and that have been a part of this process,’” he said.

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