The post-production editors behind “Saturday Night Live” are ready to strike and have set an April 1 deadline.
Subject to an agreement with producer NBCUniversal, the 12 to 20 editing crew members have announced their intention to halt work and disrupt the show if negotiations continue to stall in their bid for pay inequality and health benefits.
The deadline comes after the group, which has successfully organized with the Motion Picture Editors Guild and is part of IATSE Local 700, wants to negotiate a contract in October. As previously reported, negotiation sessions have taken place since then, but sticking points remain, particularly around the issue of health benefits.
Crew members will continue to receive the same health insurance, but an agreement has not yet been reached. Moreover, the union has searched in vain for a contract that would guarantee the workers a fair wage.
Members of the “SNL” editorial team are paid well below industry standards, while colleagues who hold other jobs on the show are paid wages commensurate with their profession. For example, assistant editors on “SNL” earn hourly wages that represent only a fraction of the industry-standard minimum rate for assistant editors on union shows. The company’s wage proposals don’t meaningfully fill that gap.
In addition, NBCUniversal has offered annual raises that lag annual raises in industry-wide agreements, despite increases in the cost of living.
Retroactive pay is also something that management has denied, with no guarantees in place for employees who receive wages for delayed contract negotiations. In addition, NBCUniversal has advocated for a dual health insurance system that could result in reduced benefits for future editors.
It also involves a proposed “management rights” clause that would erode employees’ collective bargaining rights by allowing the company to outsource 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 significant support from other craftsmen, many of whom have been seen wearing “Contract Now” shirts to work. In addition to the crew’s behind-the-scenes support, on February 4, several cast members donned the “Contract Now” shirts while saying goodbye on camera at the end of the show.
Alan Heim, ACE, president of the Motion Picture Editors Guild said, “Strikes are not funny, nor is it funny that NBCU is pushing us to take this step to ensure fair pay and benefits for our members.”
“The fact is, these employees play a key role in making ‘SNL’ the comedy institution it is and they deserve the same standards as other employees on the show,” Heim continued. “That’s why we’re thankful for all the support they’ve received from other artisans and cast members on the show. This support helps ensure management ultimately does the right thing.”
Tell sources Variety that NBC is committed to completing negotiations by the end of the month and continues to work quickly to reach an agreement.
In “Saturday Night Live’s” nearly 50-year history, the series has never been the target of a show-specific attack.
The Guild represents approximately 9,000 post-production professionals nationally, working in both live-action and animated films. It is Local 700 of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE), the largest union of behind-the-scenes entertainment workers.