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SAG-AFTRA Hangs Its Shingle

SAG-AFTRA Nat’l Exec Director David White displays the merged union’s new banner.

The newly merged performer’s union now known as SAG-AFTRA has officially hung its banner in the membership lobby of 5757 Wilshire Blvd. A week ago, the votes were in from the memberships of both SAG and AFTRA, overwhelmingly approving a merger that created the new entity. SAG members voted 82 percent in favor, while AFTRA members approved it with an 86 percent majority, easily exceeding the 60 percent threshold needed for both unions’ membership for passage.

The merger became effective immediately, bringing under a single union banner more than 150,000 actors, announcers, broadcasters journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals.

“With this historic vote, members of both unions have affirmed one of the most basic principles of unionism: Together we are stronger,” said SAG-AFTRA national co-president Ken Howard. “This merger, the result of months – really years – of planning, brings together the best elements of both unions and positions us well to thrive in the changing 21st-century media landscape.”

“The merger of these two unions is a huge victory for our members, and it is a monumental achievement for the labor movement,” said SAG-AFTRA national co-president Roberta Reardon. “I invite all members, locally and nationally, to join with us in building a successor union worthy of AFTRA and SAG.”

As SAG president, Howard had been working with then AFTRA president Reardon on a merger plan since July 2010. The two leaders toured the nation to listen to the membership and facilitate discussion on establishing a common vision for a merged union. Last June, elected SAG and AFTRA leaders formed the Group for One Union and created work groups to break out the specifics of how the new entity would be organized.

Questions still remain about future governance and how the still-separate pension and health plans will be consolidated. But for now, the banner is hung, and SAG-AFTRA sets sail into the future.

‘SAG-AFTRA’ Could Be a Reality by March

SAG LogoAFTRA Logo

A proposed merger of performer unions SAG and AFTRA could be on the table for membership ratification as early as February, with a vote due back in March, according to this article from the Hollywood Reporter’s Jonathan Handel. A confidential source close to the discussion, which is officially still under wraps, tells Handel the proposed new union would be managed by “co-presidents” for an interim period, but would eventually elect a single president, national executive vice president, secretary-treasurer and a national board. Ten additional VP spots are rumored to be in the works for various cities and occupational categories, e.g. actors and singers.

Up to 500 delegates, including board members and office holders, would meet at a convention every other year under the proposed plan. A key change for AFTRA would be tougher guidelines for joining the union, as currently the only requirement is payment of an initiation fee. However, the source says entry may be easier than under current SAG guidelines, with some allowances made for education and training level.

The proposed merger plan is slated to be presented in full to the SAG and AFTRA boards via videoconference on Sunday. The two orgs will then break out separately the following weekend to discuss the proposal. Handel estimates that the boards of both unions will approve the merger as proposed, and that SAG president Ken Howard and AFTRA president Roberta Reardon will make the announcement with a call to ratification at the SAG Awards January 30.

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