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SAG-AFTRA Extends Dues Relief, Announces Bias Training and Diversity Initiatives

National board also adopts new rule explicitly prohibiting harassment, abuse and retaliation for filing complaints

The SAG-AFTRA National Board extended the dues relief program for actors still struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a Diversity Action Plan to combat bias and discrimination in the industry.

The plan, which was discussed at a board meeting this weekend, includes the creation of diversity committees serving Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) and Latino members and implicit bias training for the guild’s national and local boards. It also introduced the adoption of a new membership rule — Rule 7 — which SAG-AFTRA describes as “explicitly prohibiting harassment and abuse, including sexual harassment, intimidation, and retaliation for the filing of complaints, and making violations subject to disciplinary action.”

To enforce this new rule, the board is considering a motion to extend the statute of limitations on member disciplinary charges relating to sexual abuse from six months to 10 years. The new initiatives come after the guild held a summit called “Stop the Hate,” in which prejudice and abuse within film, television and broadcast media was discussed.

“Stop The Hate week has been all about taking action to support and protect our members from diverse communities, many of whom are under direct threat and facing violent attacks,” SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said. “The action plan approved by our National Board today advances concrete actions to stem the tide of hate.”

“Taking action to stop the hate starts with each of us,” SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White added. “But collective action aggregating the power of our individual members makes achieving real change truly possible.”

Since the mass shooting in Atlanta on March 16 at three massage parlors that killed eight people, a new spotlight has been placed upon the surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the pandemic, as well as Asian stereotypes in the media. In an interview with CNN earlier this month, Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong warned that the U.S. “better wake up” to the escalating attacks.

“The unconscious bias and racism is pervasive. It is almost inherent, sadly, in the historic fabric of this country,” he said. “We have to recognize that, accept it and then break it.”