Reardon proposes 'presidents forum'

Leaders of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have taken another step toward merging with the Screen Actors Guild.

AFTRA prez Roberta Reardon announced Wednesday that she had proposed to SAG prexy Ken Howard the creation a “presidents forum” – an arrangement under which the leaders of the two performer unions could informally “establish on common vision” for a single union.

The announcement said that the forum would probably meet on an “as needed” basis through 2011.

Howard said in response, “Bringing SAG and AFTRA together is a top priority and I’m delighted that we’re making progress.”

He also said he would discuss the forum with the national board at its meeting this weekend.

Reardon and Howard have both supported the idea of combining SAG and AFTRA and the national boards have expressed support for the notion but the unions haven’t worked out the details. Previous moves to persuade SAG members to support merging have been turned away due to concerns such as SAG losing its identity as any actors union and the difficulties of combining the separate pension ands health plans.

SAG members voted down mergers in 1999 and 2003, when the vote fell just short of the required 60 percent support.

Merger supporters have contended that split jurisdiction in primetime is leading to actors being unable to meet earnings thresholds to qualify for the health plans. They also assert that the combined unions would run more efficiently as a single organization and would have more bargaining clout.

AFTRA angrily split from SAG in 2008 over jurisdictional beefs and negotiated its own primetime deal for the first time in three decades. Under Howard, SAG’s mended fences and the two unions are set to negotiate jointly on a new primetime deal in September.

SAG has 120,000 members while AFTRA has 70,000 including broadcasters and singers. About 45,000 actors belong to both unions.

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