AFTRA’s board OKs merger plan

Plans to merge the industry’s two performers unions passed another milestone during the weekend when the board of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists overwhelmingly approved the plan to unite with the Screen Actors Guild.

In a meeting on Saturday at the Sheraton Universal, AFTRA national board members endorsed the merger proposal by a vote of 64 to 4. SAG’s national board passed the merger plan last month.

The merger would create one union of about 110,000 performers, including actors, dancers, singers and announcers, along with newscasters and TV reporters.

Just one step

The AFTRA board’s approval, however, is just one step in the merger process. The SAG board will decide this summer whether to send the merger to a referendum vote of its membership. The merger plan also must be approved at the AFTRA Convention, which begins July 31, before it can go out to a vote of its members. In mail balloting, the merger plan then will require the approval of at least 60% of each union’s membership.

“We’ve really been working on this process in a collegial fashion,” said Bruce York, AFTRA’s national executive director. “We’ve taken time to build consensus each step of the way.”

Still unresolved is a plan for uniting both unions’ health and pension plans, considered critical before a merger plan is sent out to a vote.

Complicated issues

“Differences in that area still exist and the issues are complicated,” AFTRA president Shelby Scott said. “But the trustees have been meeting, trying to come up with a plan design.”

Meanwhile, AFTRA hired its first national director of organizing, Paul Worthman, who joined the union last week. Last year, AFTRA announced it would make a substantial investment in organizing, particularly of cable television.

AFTRA celebrated its 60th anniversary Saturday night at a cocktail reception at the Museum of Television & Radio in Beverly Hills. Among the highlights: a rendition of TV theme songs, sung by board members and AFTRA music performers.

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