Could be in place by this time next year

Hollywood’s performers unions have taken a first formal step toward hammering out a merger plan that could be in place by this time next year.

Reps of SAG and AFTRA met Friday through Sunday in Silver Spring, Md., at the National Labor College in the first of four confabs with the aim of delivering a merger plan by January to their respective national boards. The next meeting will take place in New York on Aug. 27-28.

No date’s been set yet for the vote by the 70,000 members of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists and the 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild.

The unions still haven’t sorted out such thorny issues as the name of the combined union, dues structure and governance — all of which could provide ammunition for opponents. More than 60% of those voting in both unions must approve for the deal to go through.

The reps met during Friday through Sunday under the official title of Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA Group for One Union and established work groups on governance and structure; finance and dues; collective bargaining, pension, health and retirement; operations and staff; and member education and outreach.

The unions gave few other details about the substance of the discussions in a joint statement, which included a strong endorsement of the sessions by AFTRA president Roberta Reardon and SAG president Ken Howard.

“We applaud the members and staff of our two unions for their incredible solidarity and vision during this intense and substantive weekend,” Reardon and Howard said.

Reardon and Howard have contended that a combined union would be stronger and resolve long-standing jurisdictional problems.

AFL-CIO president Richard L. Trumka and Dept. for Professional Employees prexy Paul Almeida spoke at the opening session Friday.

“I encourage you to keep an open mind and base your decision not on any preconceived notions but on this measure alone: what is best for our members, our unions and our future,” Trumka said. “That’s the big picture we must all keep our eyes on. Whatever your decision the 12 million members of the AFL-CIO will support you.”

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