Union officials at SAG-AFTRA are dancing over an agreement with Justin Timberlake.
SAG-AFTRA has reached an agreement for the dancers on Timberlake's 20/20 Experience World Tour, one of the largest in the industry, to be covered under the union's touring agreement.
The agreement marks first time the union has successfully organized dancers employed on a specific tour under the so-called SAG-AFTRA Touring Agreement, and it could lead to similar contacts covering dancers for other acts.
The deal comes 16 months after SAG-AFTRA approved a landmark contract with the major record labels, including Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group, to cover dancers and performers who work on music videos.
"It's precedent setting," said David White, the union's national executive director and chief negotiator, said in an interview. "It covers dancers with a tour that is in the category of one of the world's largest. For us to expand our relationship with an artist of Justin Timberlake's status is one of our ongoing objectives and reflects the power of the merger and the rationale behind SAG-AFTRA."
The Screen Actors Guild merged with its smaller sister union last year, forming SAG-AFTRA, in part to gain more leverage in contract negotiations and extend union benefits to a broader array of performers.
"It's part of our strategy to cover all talent who make a living in front of the camera and behind the microphone," White added.
Until now, the union's touring agreement covered only backup singers -- not dancers -- who work for James Taylor, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Blues Traveler, Josh Groban and Jefferson Starship, as well as Timberlake.
The Timberlake deal will allow performers to count their earnings toward eligibility for pension and health benefits, just like actors and other union members. The agreement does not set minimum pay rates and gives touring companies the flexibility to negotiate their compensation directly with performers.
“The physical demands of touring are tough on our artist members and those members that tour with them,” said Randy Himes, assistant national executive director for sound recordings. “I applaud the dancers for their dedication to this new agreement and give Justin the credit he richly deserves for stepping up and taking care of his elite dancer group.”