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SAG-AFTRA cuts more staff as pandemic stifles industry

The Los Angeles offices of the SAG-AFTRA union, which announced more job cuts
The Los Angeles offices of the SAG-AFTRA union, which announced more job cuts.
(Tommaso Boddi / WireImage)

SAG-AFTRA, Hollywood’s biggest union, announced a third wave of layoffs from its staff and renewed dues relief for members as the industry reopening remains stifled by the pandemic.

The union, representing 160,000 actors and other performers, said it will reduce its staff nationwide to about 400. About 45 individuals are affected, bringing the total layoffs this year to 171 nationwide, said a person familiar with the cuts who was not authorized to comment.

In addition, SAG-AFTRA’s national board approved an extension of dues relief for members, allowing those suffering financially to request an installment plan and a waiver of late fees.

“With cases spiking across the country and a second global surge possible this winter, we must take steps to further align expenses with anticipated revenues,” David White, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director, said in a statement.

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The SAG-AFTRA Foundation, supported by famous actors, raised its fundraising target to $12 million to help performers hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hundreds of thousands of entertainment industry workers have lost their jobs due to the shutdown of film and TV production, which has only slowly begun to resume in some parts of the country.

SAG-AFTRA, headquartered in Los Angeles, said the cuts are necessary to help the union shore up its finances and prepare for hardships that will last until next year.

“After many years of disciplined financial management, we were able to build up the reserves which allows our organization to be well positioned to endure a period such as this,” White and President Gabrielle Carteris told members in a memo. “However, as we are all painfully aware, the production shutdown over the last seven months has shattered earnings across nearly all sectors of our membership.”

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Other unions have also struggled during the pandemic. Earlier this year Unite Here Local 11 in Los Angeles — which represents 307,000 workers at hotels, casinos, airports and stadiums nationwide — furloughed nearly half its staff of 110 as member dues dried up.

Hollywood unions have been rallying for government aid for the industry. Studios, such as AT&T’s Warner Bros., face new rounds of layoffs. The National Assn. of Theatre Owners last week sent a letter to congressional leaders calling for federal financial relief. The trade group estimated 70% of small and mid-size theater companies would have to declare bankruptcy or close for good without government support.


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