"This is a terrific outcome and I offer my sincere thanks and congratulations to AFTRA's National Board and National President Roberta Reardon. Professional performers are now an important step closer to the strongest union representation possible. Just as our boards have, I believe our members will decisively approve this merger and that SAG-AFTRA will be a leader in shaping the entertainment and media industries."
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The board voted 87% to 13% in favor of a historic merger agreement with AFTRA that includes a proposed constitution and dues payment plan for what would be the largest labor group in Hollywood.
SAG represents about 125,000 actors; AFTRA has 70,000 members, including actors, broadcasters, disc jockeys, singers and dancers. At least 40,000 people are members of both unions. The union is to be called SAG-AFTRA.
AFTRA's board is expected to approve the merger package this weekend, clearing the way for a referendum to be held by members of both unions in the coming weeks. The merger would take effect only if at least 60% of those who vote approve the marriage.
A previous attempt at merging the unions narrowly failed in 2003, partly out of fears that SAG would lose its autonomy. But support for the idea has grown considerably since then. Leaders of both unions want to join forces to end years of bickering and present a more unified voice in contract negotiations with employers.
Under the plan, national officers, including the president and secretary-treasurer, would be elected directly by members. However, some other positions, including that of an executive vice president, would be elected by delegates at a convention held every two years, a nod to AFTRA's tradition of using conventions and delegates. SAG elects its officers directly by a vote of members. Dues will increase for some members and drop for others.
Photo: Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times