The post-production editors behind “Saturday Night Live” are ready to strike and have set an April 1 deadline.
Barring an agreement with producer NBCUniversal, members of the editorial staff 12 through 20 announced that they intended to cease work and disrupt the show should bargaining sessions continue to stall in their bid for unequal pay and health benefits.
The deadline comes after the group, which has successfully organized with the Guild of Motion Picture Editors, part of IATSE Local 700, announced its goals to negotiate a contract in October. As previously reported, bargaining sessions have taken place since then, but sticking points remain, particularly on the issue of health benefits.
Crew members continue to receive the same health coverage, but no agreement has been reached yet. Moreover, the union unsuccessfully sought a contract that would guarantee the workers fair wages.
Members of the “SNL” editorial staff are paid well below industry standards, while colleagues who work other jobs on the show receive wages commensurate with their craft. For example, assistant editors on “SNL” earn hourly wages that are only a fraction of the minimum industry standard rate for assistant editors on syndicated shows. The company’s wage proposals do not meaningfully address this gap.
Furthermore, NBCUniversal introduced annual increases that fell short of annual increases at industry-wide conventions, despite the cost-of-living increases.
Retroactive pay is also something management has rejected, with no guarantees for workers being paid for backdated contract negotiations. Furthermore, NBCUniversal argued a two-tiered health insurance system could lead to lower benefits for editors in the future.
The proposed “management rights” issue would also undermine workers’ collective bargaining rights by allowing the company to subcontract work and unilaterally change workplace rules and policies. This clause is inconsistent with many of NBCU’s other collective bargaining agreements on the show.
The show’s post-production unit has received great support from other craftsmen, many of whom have been seen wearing “Contract Now” shirts to work. In addition to support from the backstage staff, several members of the cast donned “Contract Now” T-shirts on February 4 during their farewell on camera at the end of the show.
“Strikes are not funny, nor is it funny that NBCU is leading us to take this step to ensure fair pay and benefits for our members,” said Alan Heim, ACE, president of the Motion Picture Editors Guild.
“The truth is, these workers play a major role in making ‘SNL’ the comedy enterprise it is and deserve the same standards as the other workers on the show,” Heim continued. “That is why we are grateful for all the outpouring support they have received from the other crafts and cast members of the show. This support helps ensure that management finally does the right thing.”
sources say diverse NBC has committed to closing negotiations by the end of the month and is continuing to work quickly to reach an agreement.
In the nearly 50-year history of “Saturday Night Live,” the series has never before been targeted with a show-specific hit.
The Guild represents approximately 9,000 post-production professionals nationally, working in both live action and motion pictures. It is a local 700 member of the International Alliance of Stage and Stage Employees (IATSE), the largest union of backstage entertainment workers.
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