SAG-AFTRA’s national board of directors has approved the union’s proposals for a new commercials contract, the negotiations for which are set to begin February 20. The current contract, which expires on March 31, generates more than $1 billion a year for for its members, but those numbers have been in decline in recent years. SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris will chair the union’s negotiating committee, and David White will serve as chief negotiator.

White’s employment contract with the union was extended through February 1, 2023.

Advertisers and ad agencies that use union actors for their commercials are already gearing up for a possible strike. SAG and AFTRA, prior to their merger in 2012, last struck the ad industry in 2000; it lasted six months. Before that, they struck the industry for 26 days in 1988; for 51 days in 1978-1979; and for 80 days in 1952-1953.

“The industry remains optimistic that we will have a successful conclusion to these negotiations without disruption,” the ad industry’s bargaining arm, the Joint Policy Committee, says on its website. “However, in order to provide for prudent production planning prior to the expiration of these contracts, signatory employers, both agencies and advertisers, are advised to review and consider” various options and recommendations to mitigate the impact of a strike.”

Stacy Marcus, the JPC’s chief negotiator, has urged new productions to “consider re-scheduling production planned for April 1, 2019, through June 2019 to a date well prior to March 31, 2019. This is of particular concern if you are planning production for the rollout of a new campaign or are planning a celebrity production.”

Commenting on the extension of White’s employment agreement, Carteris said, “I am thrilled that the national board overwhelmingly voted to ensure David’s executive expertise and stewardship of SAG-AFTRA’s operations will continue for another four years. It speaks to the strength and stability of this union and our forward vision.”

Said White: “SAG-AFTRA is a truly extraordinary organization and I continue to be excited and energized by the opportunity to lead this operation. I look forward to continuing my partnership with our members, our elected leaders and the talented staff of this union. I want to thank President Carteris, the officers and the National Board for their confidence and giving me this opportunity to serve.”

The board meanwhile also approved two new interactive agreements. The new Low Budget Video Game Agreement and Interactive Localization Agreement were created in partnership with video game producers to create more opportunities for SAG-AFTRA members to work in parts of the industry previously unorganized. Video games under $1.5 million now have access to the SAG-AFTRA member talent in an accessible rate structure. The Interactive Localization Agreement was created to reach an area of the industry, foreign video games recorded in English, that has historically been non-union.

Secretary-treasurer Jane Austin and CFO Arianna Ozzanto reported that both revenue and expenses are tracking according to plan for the second quarter. The board approved a Finance Committee recommendation to hold initiation fees at their current rates and to allow an automatic increase in base dues from $214.32 to $218.61 to take effect as per the Merger Agreement, effective May 1, 2019.

SAG-AFTRA COO and general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland presented a recommendation regarding the initiation of negotiations for a successor agreement to the Music Video Agreement, which expires April 30, 2019, including a report on the appointment of the chairs for the negotiating committee