SAG-AFTRA Board Approves Resolutions Requiring Members To Follow Covid-19 Protocols & Condemns “Misrepresentation” About Health Plan Changes
The national board of SAG-AFTRA passed resolutions today requiring that members adhere to the union’s Covid-19 safety protocols and “correcting” what it calls “misrepresentations” about changes to the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan that will go into effect January 1. The latter is aimed at supporters of a class-action lawsuit who accused the Plan’s trustees of making eligibility changes that will fall hardest on older members — a charge that the trustees vehemently deny.
With respect to coronavirus safety protocols, the board passed an amendment to its membership rules saying that “It shall be the duty of every member to fully comply with workplace safety protocols approved by SAG-AFTRA; it shall be the duty of every member to report to the union any violation by a signatory of any of the union’s collective bargaining agreements,” and that “a charge of violation of this rule filed by a member in good standing…must be based on the member’s in-person observation of the violation.” It adds that “a charge filed by the union shall be based on its investigation of the facts and circumstances.”
“The vast majority of SAG-AFTRA members working on set are consistently and conscientiously protecting themselves and their fellows by following the pandemic protocols laid out in the Return to Work agreement,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s chief operating officer and general counsel, who heads the union’s Pandemic Safety and Return to Work initiative. “This new rule makes absolutely clear SAG-AFTRA’s commitment to ensuring that everyone takes on-set safety very seriously, including rules and protocols designed to help prevent the spread of Covid.”
As for the Health Plan, the board approved a resolution — along fractious, internal party lines — stating that the union “will take all appropriate action to ensure that members are not deceived by misrepresentations,” and “condemns those who seek to use the financial challenges to the Health Plan and the related changes to generate fear or anger in furtherance of personal agendas.”
Facing staggering deficits, the Plan, which is a separate entity from the union itself, has said that “without restructuring the Health Plans, we are projecting a deficit of $141 million this year and $83 million in 2021, and by 2024 the Health Plan is projected to run out of reserves.”
A lawsuit filed by 10 members of the union, including former SAG president Ed Asner and Los Angeles Local vice president David Jolliffe, accused the trustees of making changes to the Plan that “illegally discriminate based on age.”
According to the Health Plan, the lawsuit is “entirely without merit. The Board of Trustees has always taken its responsibilities very seriously, consulting with respected and experienced experts in connection with the Health Plan merger and the ongoing design of the Plan. The complaint misrepresents the facts and omits material information about the diligence that preceded the decision to merge as well as the circumstances leading to the recent benefit changes. We will vigorously contest this lawsuit and demonstrate that our actions were fully consistent with our legal responsibilities.”
The Plan today released a set of seven videos about the coming changes; watch them here.
Earlier this month, the union sent an email to its members that that presented “five facts you need to know about changes to the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan.” Both sides of the debate accuse the other of “misleading” the union’s members about the causes of the Plan’s troubles and the changes that they say are needed to rescue it.
“We have grown increasingly concerned about the flood of misleading information being spread by certain websites and social media accounts about our Health Plan,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “Like many scams that target the elderly, the misinformation being spread is endangering our most vulnerable members. By directing Plan participants to unofficial websites rather than the Plan’s official, vetted and accurate website, they are confusing people who need to connect with the Plan to ensure they have appropriately transitioned to their new coverage. Further, efforts to minimize the importance of the 80% COBRA premium discount the Plan is offering for transitioning participants are preventing eligible participants from reaching out to benefit from this crucial transition program.”
“Citing multiple instances in which members, many of them senior performers, reached out about misleading information and accusations regarding the Health Plan changes,” the union said in a statement, “numerous board members from across the country expressed their disappointment with those individuals who are leading the misinformation campaign and outrage with their actions, and urged the board to direct the union to protect its membership by ensuring accuracy around the changes.”
A resolution passed by the board about the “accuracy of information” about the Plan’s changes states:
“Whereas, the upcoming changes to the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan are of great importance to the members of SAG-AFTRA and the union itself, and
“Whereas, although the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan is an independent organization that is not controlled by SAG-AFTRA, it is essential that SAG-AFTRA’s members are provided with accurate information about those changes, and
“Whereas, a substantial amount of misinformation has been circulated through social media and other forms of communication, which has left some SAG-AFTRA members with incorrect understandings of the nature of and reasons for the changes, and
“Whereas, some have sought to generate fear in those members through salacious and inaccurate communications;
“Now, therefore, be it resolved by the SAG-AFTRA National Board that SAG-AFTRA will take all appropriate action to ensure that members are not deceived by misrepresentations, and
“Be it further resolved that SAG-AFTRA condemns those who seek to use the financial challenges to the Health Plan and the related changes to generate fear or anger in furtherance of personal agendas.”