Union merger is top priority, Gordon says

Union merger will be the pressing issue for 1993, according to Barry Gordon, president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Gordon, addressing about 350 union members at their annual meeting yesterday, said SAG is closer now than ever to merging with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

“After years of deadlock, the merger talks are very much on track, and significant progress has been made,” Gordon said. “I’m optimistic that this year will bring a major move forward.”

Gordon also said that talks are under way to merge SAG with Actors Equity, thus folding the three performing unions into one guild.

“The prospect of a true all-encompassing performers union looms even larger,” he said. “I have made no secret of the fact that my dream is to see all three unions come together.”

As for the union’s accomplishments this past year, Gordon pointed to taking over the jurisdiction of the extras and the recent negotiations to give dancers principal status in films. Union executives currently are talking with the producers to give dancers equal status in television.

“We need to make our voice heard on issues such as performers rights, labor law reform and health care,” Gordon said. “And we must be a leader on the international scene as well.”

Ken Orsatti, SAG national executive director, said the onslaught of international conglomerates buying up Hollywood companies has been one of the biggest changes for union exex in the past decade.

Orsatti, who also addressed the membership meeting yesterday, said that during his 31-year tenure with SAG he has seen Hollywood increasingly become an international property.

He noted that the international agenda for performers has become “increasingly complex,” as Hollywood adapts to new changes in technology and market dynamics.

“We are wrestling with major money issues, such as international trade, copyright protection, creative rights, immigration, health care, unemployment, the status of women and minorities,” he said. “It is vital that we make our position known in these areas.”

He pointed to the unions’ victory in turning back a decision that would have eliminated consultation with U.S. unions about granting work permits to foreign artists.

“With the national AFL-CIO, we lobbied hard and changed that decision,” he said.

“The law now requires that immigration authorities consult with SAG and other unions prior to granting visiting artist visas.”

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