Posted: Mon., Jan. 16, 2012, 5:55am PT
AFTRA, SAG deliver merger package
Accord to go to boards for approval
Leaders of Hollywood’s two biggest performer unions have completed a proposal for merging the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.
Should the national boards approve, it’s possible that the proposal could be sent to SAG and AFTRA members for approval by March or April in a referendum that would require 60% of those voting in each union to approve.
SAG currently has about 120,000 members while AFTRA has about 70,000 including actors, broadcasters, disc jockeys, singers and dancers. About 45,000 performers belonging to both unions.
Details of the proposal were not disclosed in an announcement early Monday that followed nine days of meetings by AFTRA and SAG Group for One Union. But people close to the situation have indicated that the Screen Actors Guild name will survive in some form as the moniker and that elections will combine elements of SAG’s direct voting structure for some national offices and AFTRA’s national convention structure for others.
The SAG national board will meet Jan. 27 and 28 to vote on whether to send the proposal to members for a vote and the AFTRA national board will meet on Jan. 28 and on Jan. 29 if necessary.
The timetable means that the key details of the proposal — the name of the combined union and its governance and dues structure — could be unveiled and touted during the SAG Awards ceremonies at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Jan. 29 when SAG president Ken Howard gives his speech. Howard and AFTRA president Roberta Reardon have made merger their signature issue and received strong support from members in recent elections for that stance.
The marathon meeting, which took place at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood, had been scheduled to meet the unions’ previously announced goal of finishing in time for submission to the national boards at the end of the month.
SAG members defeated merger proposals in 1999 and 2003 while AFTRA members supported both. In 2003, the merged union would have been called the Alliance of Intl. Media Artists, which may have been a factor in the defeat. Concerns over SAG’s loss of identity and the impact on the SAG-producers health and pension plans were raised in that vote, when a merger was supported by 58% of SAG members who voted.
The official AFTRA and SAG Group for One Union has held five meetings since June to work out details such as a name, governance, financing, membership requirements and dues. Other than describing the meetings as productive, the unions have disclosed only general details.
SAG’s elected leadership has been dominated in recent years by those in favor of a merger, who contend that a combined union would be more powerful and remove jurisdictional overlaps. Opponents within SAG, whose influence has waned in recent years, contend that SAG should remain for actors only.
SAG and AFTRA share jurisdiction on primetime TV. After years of bitter disputes, AFTRA split from SAG on joint bargaining in 2008 and negotiated a separate deal a full year before SAG reached an accord — leading to producers opting to sign with AFTRA for nearly all new shows.
It’s not yet clear whether SAG national exec director David White or AFTRA national exec director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth will lead the combined union if merger’s approved. White signed an agreement last year that extended his contract into 2014.
“What we have accomplished over the last year is tremendously gratifying,” Howard and Reardon said in a joint statement. “We are confident our members will agree that we have created something we can all be proud of — actors, singers, broadcasters, dancers, voiceover artists, background actors, stuntpersons and all entertainment and media professionals that will be represented by this new union. The consensus process allowed our G1 members to fully discuss, debate and reach agreement on critical provisions that form a strong foundation for a single union that will protect and strengthen the future for all our members.”
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