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‘Saturday Night Live’ crew ratifies first-ever contract after threats to strike

By Jonah Valdez, Los Angeles Times
Published: March 23, 2023, 8:45pm

Members of the “Saturday Night Live” postproduction crew unanimously ratified their first-ever contract agreement with NBC this week, averting a possible strike.

The new contract, in effect until the summer of 2026, will give employees who work as editors on the NBC sketch-comedy series immediate pay increases and health care benefits, as well as resources that help in coping with the show’s demanding and nontraditional work hours, a source close to negotiations told the Los Angeles Times. The individual asked to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak about details of the agreement.

“We’re proud of this crew and their resolve,” said Cathy Repola, executive director of the Motion Picture Editors Guild. “They remind us of what the labor movement is all about — folks standing up for their worth and standing shoulder to shoulder with colleagues to insist on it. They deserve everything they won.”

The crew of about two dozen had won recognition as a union of Editors Guild IATSE Local 700 in October and began to negotiate with NBC in December. However, by mid-January, after the union introduced its wage proposal, contract negotiations began to stall. Later that month, the crew authorized a strike and, in March, set a deadline of April 1 for the company to come to an agreement.

During the contract campaign, other “SNL” crew members as well as cast members supported the effort by wearing “Contract Now” T-shirts to work, the source said. At the end of a February episode hosted by Pedro Pascal, multiple cast members — including Colin Jost, James Austin Johnson, Andrew Dismukes, Sarah Sherman and Bowen Yang — wore the tees on air during the curtain call.

With the crew willing to walk off the show, NBC reached a tentative agreement on March 17, a little more than a week after the deadline was set.

Before Wednesday’s vote, the postproduction crew of editors were outliers on “SNL.” Most of those on the show — writers and directors, cast members, stagehands, camera crew — are union members and veterans of the collective bargaining process.

“This win has been a long time coming, and we’re excited to join the ranks of all our unionized colleagues who make ‘SNL’ possible every week,” said Ryan Spears, an editor on the crew. “And it was an honor to receive a tremendous outpouring of support from cast, writers and crew throughout this whole process. Everyone on the team is thrilled at what we were able to accomplish together.”

The pay bumps for the crew will begin when the show resumes production for its April 1 episode, which features host Quinta Brunson of “Abbott Elementary” and musical guest Lil Yachty. The show is currently on a scheduled two-week break.

Crew members will see raises ranging from 7.5 percent to 33.5 percent, the source close to negotiations said. Some crew members who worked in February also will get a ratification bonus of $250 or $500, depending on the number of days worked, the source said. Some crew members could see an overall pay bump as high as 60.5 percent by the end of the contract term.

Health care benefits will also be extended to all crew members. The contract also made official other benefits that NBC had long given its crew, such as meals, hotel stays and car service to transport workers to and from home.

Such benefits help ease hectic work schedules that include tight turnarounds in editing skits, which are often shot on Friday, with postproduction work sometimes wrapping just minutes before airtime on Saturday night

New benefits include bereavement leave. Additionally, the company and union made a joint commitment to promote diversity, equity and inclusion on the crew.