Merger campaign for SAG, AFTRA on track

Meetings scheduled to craft a plan set for Oct. 14-18

Despite the disruption of Hurricane Irene, the campaign to merge Hollywood’s performers unions remains on track — with a third set of meetings scheduled to craft a plan set for Oct. 14-18 in Los Angeles.

Announcement of the October dates came Monday at the end of three days of meetings by the Group for One Union reps of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. Though a member vote hasn’t been set, the optimistic tone by SAG president Ken Howard and AFTRA prexy Roberta Reardon is a signal that the reps will be able to deliver a merger plan to the national boards by the January deadline.

“If anyone doubted our commitment to a merger, what happened this weekend should put those doubts to rest. Even a hurricane couldn’t stop us,” Howard said. “We covered a lot of ground and I’m so proud of our SAG and AFTRA team. I’m more confident than ever that we will get this done for the members.”

The videoconferences, held at SAG headquarters in Los Angeles and New York, substituted for what had been planned as a three days of face-to-face meetings in New York, until the threat of Hurricane Irene pounding Gotham forced them to regroup. The vidconference seshes included a presentation from the Member Education & Outreach Workgroup and discussion of the findings and recommendations of its Governance & Structure Workgroup — two of the six workgroups created in June.

“We made important progress this weekend,” Reardon said. “We examined the myriad strategies, approaches and structures to create a strong, new union that will further empower our members to strengthen their careers and secure their future.”

The weekend meetings were facilitated by Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations professor Susan J. Schurman and labor consultant Peter S. DiCicco.

SAG and AFTRA still haven’t decided on key issues such as the name of the new entity and its dues structure. Proponents have argued that the combo will make a stronger union and eliminate jurisdictional overlaps while opponents are contending that SAG should remain a union solely for actors.

A vote by the 120,000 members of SAG and the 70,000 members of AFTRA could take place by spring. Approximately 45,000 members belong to both unions. Approval requires a 60% super-majority from those voting in both unions.

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