Guild upset BeeAudio won't go union

ASHLAND — Audio book producer BeeAudio has drawn fire from the Screen Actors Guild"'American Federation of Television and Radio Artists because it has not agreed to become a union shop.

BeeAudio hires professional narrators, editors, audio engineers and researchers to produce audio books, audio magazines, audio marketing collateral, educational, multimedia presentations, voiceovers, podcasts and voicemail messaging.

On the company's website it says it can beat the price and match the quality of competitors "because we use the latest and best technology while basing communication and data storage in the cloud."

SAG-AFTRA, which represents more than 160,000 film and television principal and background performers worldwide, argues that's because it pays less than union scale.

BeeAudio founder James Adams, a former managing editor of the Sunday London Times and later CEO of United Press International, built a cyber-intelligence organization later sold for $40 million. He launched BeeAudio, which now employs 150 people across the globe, in 2008. Fewer than 10 of the company's employees are union members.

Adams said union representatives contacted him three times, beginning in June, primarily inquiring about the company. But no mention of contract negotiations ensued until August, when Adams, a former journalist in the United Kingdom, was on vacation.

This week the union served notice to its members that they should not do business with BeeAudio.

"BeeAudio is producing books for various major publishers but is paying half or less than half the industry-standard rates to narrators per finished hour of recording," SAG-AFTRA said in a notice on its website. The union said the company has refused to bargain, stating in a written communication to its narrators that to do so would 'involve pay increases across the board.' "

Adams said acceding to the demands would put his company at risk.

"For three years, I ran the business at a loss so that I could reach scale and position the company for the future." Adams said. "We expanded through the recession and helped make sure that all those who work for us could pay their bills. I intend to remain competitive, to create more jobs, and to make sure that BeeAudio takes care of all the exceptional people who work for it.

The union's website said its national board of directors voted unanimously to issue a "no contract, no work" order against BeeAudio.

"SAG-AFTRA members are hereby informed that no member may accept work as an audiobook narrator for Bee Audio," the union said in its post, adding it would discipline members who violated the order.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email

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