Thursday, May 6, 2010

Merger? Both leaders say "yes".

The issue of the merger of SAG and AFTRA continues to bring press, speculation and raise emotions on both sides. In my view merger is a long way off, but needed to deal with the industry and econmics of the 21st century. There is fighting economy of scale and the need for America's union movement to consolidate and form a strong front in defense of contracts, working conditions and workers.

The last merger attempt failed to reach the required 60% of SAG's membership ratification by only a few hundred votes, and lese than on percent. AFTRA overwhelmingly passed the last attempt at joining the unions, a merger plan that was flawed in procedual disagreements and ways unrelated to the need to work together and merge.




National SAG President Ken Howard spoke of the need for SAG and AFTRA to merge when he visited the Nevada membership this spring. Strong emotions remain on both sides from the last merger attempt, which failed to gain the required 60% of SAG membership ratification by a few hundred votes. Strong emotions define the pride of actors, the battles ahead with management, the emergence of technologies that are already changing how projects are produced and how we ply our crafts.

SAG and AFTRA share jurisdiction over motion pictures, television and commercial production. AFTRA also includes recording artists, some select producers and other smaller industry groups. Equity represents stage actors. All three have differing cultures, missions, and ideas about who should be a member and how. SAG requires work in the trade under SAG contract. AFTRA allows buy-ins but in come areas requires work n a trade under their umbrella. Equity has a points system through which actors earn membership.

The vast majority of television pilots, and an increasingly strong representation of all television production, are moving forward under AFTRA contracts. Digital media has made the clear delineation in the past between film and videotape as ancient as the dinosaur. We live in a new era of production, with product transported to production facilities and eventually transmitted to the consumer on iPods and digital files.

Having stage, film, television and commercial actors under one umbrella is not uncommon in entertainment unions around the world.

There remains opposition to any talk of merger or movement toward it in factions of all three unions, with the strongest percentage within SAG.

With the election of leaders at the head of both unions who are open to the concept, speculation in the media and among union membership is reaching a renewed fever.


The following is from SAG WATCH, a blog that follows AFTRA-SAG poltiics, and includes links to other sources:

Howard Response to AFTRA Leaders Letter: Let

One month after AFTRA’s elected leadership proposed a new union instead of a merger of SAG and AFTRA, the new issue of Screen Actor, just hitting mailboxes, (and not yet posted on the SAG website) contains Ken Howard’s response. No surprise, he’s for bringing SAG and AFTRA together – sooner, rather than later.
“The experiences of recent years have given performers valuable insight into the true costs of having separate unions and most actors I’ve talked with have expressed a real sense of urgency about fixing the problem.”
Variety on the letter, pointing out that the magazine also contains a report from the SAG/AFTRA relations task force. No surprise: the task force is also supportive:
“By combining our strengths, we can adapt and thrive in a shifting marketplace. By coming together as one, we can more powerfully protect the SAG and AFTRA members who work so hard to turn their inspiration into reality.”
Who’s opposed? The same group that has opposed merger for the past decade and change. Variety quotes SAG First VP and AFTRA National Board member Anne-Marie Johnson as calling discussion “premature,” and correctly noting that no specific plan is on the table.

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