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SAG, AFTRA set merger meetings

Unions closer to final proposal

Leaders of Hollywood’s two biggest performer unions are moving toward what could be a final proposal for merging the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, scheduling a week of meetings early next month.

The unions announced late Monday afternoon that the AFTRA and SAG Group for One Union had held a two-day meeting on Sunday and Monday. It said the purpose of the meeting was for the members and staff involved in the discussions to check-in before the end of the year, review progress made to date and prepare for the next round of discussions scheduled for Jan. 7 through Jan. 15.

Details of the proposal haven’t been revealed — including the proposed name of the combined union.

Spokespeople for SAG and AFTRA didn’t elaborate on the announcement about the fourth and fifth formal confab of the Group for One Union — consisting of members from the SAG Merger Task Force and the AFTRA New Union Committee. The G1, with six workgroups, has been hammering out details such as a constitution, financing and dues with the aim of presenting final proposals to the SAG and AFTRA boards in January.

Other than touting the meetings as productive, the unions have disclosed only general details about the substance of discussions.

Proponents have argued that a combined union would be more powerful and remove jurisdictional overlaps; opponents contend that the new union should be for actors only, but SAG voters have been backing pro-merger candidates overwhelmingly in recent elections.

Should the proposal be approved by the national boards, members could be asked to OK the merger in a contest that would require 60% of those voting in each union to approve. SAG currently has about 120,000 members while AFTRA has about 70,000, with about 45,000 performers belonging to both unions.

SAG members defeated merger proposals in 1999 and 2003. Merger was supported by 58% of those voting in the latter contest, when the combined union was to be called the Alliance of International Media Artists.

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