Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Michael J. Fox, Gregory Peck, Bonnie Raitt and Randy Newman have signed up for the pro-merger side in the campaign to convince SAG and AFTRA members to vote to combine their unions.
“The businesses with which artists engage are consolidating at an astonishing pace,” Redford said. “Thus, the consolidation of SAG and AFTRA is the perfect response. The combined strength at the bargaining table is invaluable.”
Peck said the consolidation will create a more efficient, up-to-date union that is stronger at the bargaining table and better able to respond to economic and technological changes in the entertainment industry. “The proposed plan will also facilitate the merger of the unions’ health and pension funds,” he added. ” We need this plan now.”
Raitt said, “A single union can protect our health and pension plans, and that’s reason enough to vote yes.”
With ballots going out June 9 to 98,000 SAG members and 77,000 AFTRA members, the unions have announced about 400 endorsers, including George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Kevin Spacey. Opponents, also numbering about 400, include Ed Harris, Helen Hunt and Holly Hunter.
Proponents have stressed the need to boost clout at the bargaining table and avoid jurisdictional battles. Opponents have questioned the feasibility of merging the health plans and warned that SAG may lose its autonomy under the proposed structure of an umbrella Alliance of Intl. Media Artists and affiliates for actors, broadcasters and recording artists.
With at least 60% of voters in both unions needed for the deal to go through, the unions are campaigning aggressively. SAG CEO Bob Pisano recently emailed guild employees a statement to use if members ask for their opinion.
“My responsibility is to serve you, the members,” the statement reads. “Both the boards voted overwhelmingly to recommend and approve this plan, as they believe that it is on your best interest. I am in favor of anything that helps our members get the best wages and working conditions possible and more jobs. Since consolidation and affiliation best positions us to achieve that end, I am in favor.”