The ANA-4A’s Joint Policy Committee on Broadcast Talent Union Relations (the “JPC”) and the American Federation of Musicians have extended the AFofM Commercial Announcements Agreement (the "AFofM Contract") - the collective bargaining agreement that covers union musicians performing in commercials - until March 31, 2020.  (It had been set to expire on December 4, 2019.)  This extension will give the negotiating parties more time to negotiate a successor contract.  During this extension period, rates will increase by one-half percent (0.5%).

In addition, the JPC has issued a helpful memorandum that explains the options available to agencies and advertisers that previously had authorized the JPC to negotiate the AFofM Contract on their behalf.  The options boil down to the following:

  • Do nothing.  If you do nothing, you remain an authorizer for the upcoming negotiations and will be bound by the new AFofM Contract when negotiations are completed.
  • Withdraw.  If you no longer wish to have the JPC negotiate the AFofM Contract on your behalf, you can withdraw your authorization by providing notice to the JPC.  The memo states that "[s]uch notice must be submitted to the JPC no later than October 4, 2019 if you do not wish to be bound by the extension and any successor agreement."
  • Terminate your status as a signatory.  If you also wish to terminate your status as a signatory to the AFofM Contract, there are a number of steps you will need to take.  (Spoiler Alert:  the process is complicated, which is why the JPC strongly recommends that authorizers seek the guidance of their legal counsel.)  At the outset, you must provide sixty days’ written notice to AFofM.  Next, as the JPC points out, a signatory that is withdrawing and terminating its signatory status may be required to bargain directly with the AFofM until either it successfully reaches agreement with the union on a new direct agreement or bargains to impasse.  If the agency/brand bargains to impasse, it may be liable for withdrawal liability to AFofM's pension plan – i.e., for its share of the amount by which these plans are underfunded.  The JPC also warns that a signatory that terminates its signatory status and then continues to produce commercials with union musicians through a signatory, "may continue to be bound to the [AFofM] Contract as a joint employer and remain responsible for all of the obligations and potential liabilities under the new Contract."  Clearly, a lot to think about.