SAG-AFTRA announced yesterday that it is revoking the signatory status of Executive Media Services (“EMS”). EMS is one of a number of companies that provides “signatory services” to ad agencies and brands that wish to engage union talent for commercials but are not themselves signatories to the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract (the “Commercials Contract”). The union's action comes in the wake of its investigation into signatory companies, an investigation that the union describes as ongoing.
The union alleges that EMS violated the Commercials Contract by falsely representing itself as a “real employer” of performers in commercials. (The union doesn't provide details regarding where and when EMS made false representations.) SAG-AFTRA suggests that signatory companies like EMS presents risks to SAG performers. What are those risks? In the words of SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris, “Performers employed under a SAG-AFTRA contract should never need to worry about their safety on set, the risk of not getting paid for their work, or the responsible use of their performance.” (The union has not yet enumerated instances in which EMS failed to live up to these kinds of obligations.)
This could be just the beginning. The union states that it is “still investigating numerous other companies" (and then it names names). And the union provides notice that ensuring that "the union has a direct relationship with the actual employers of our members" will be on its agenda during the renegotiations of the Commercials Contract (in early 2019).
EMS has not publicly responded to the union's allegations.
The union’s investigation has led to serious concerns that any “signatory service” company can actually be considered a real employer. As SAG-AFTRA negotiates the new Commercials Contracts with the ad industry in 2019, the union is determined to secure direct relationships with the actual employers of its members.