Group opposing SAG-AFTRA deal cites problems, urges 'no' vote
Opponents of the SAG-AFTRA merger are citing a dozen problem areas in their official opposition statement. (See full text of document below.)
“The current merger plan solves almost nothing and addes too many inherent problems,” the conclusion said. “Vote no and demand that our union leaders conduct the necessary due diligence to create an agrement which will not harm actors.”
The statement will go out Feb. 27 as part of the ballot materials sent to 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild. Another opposition statement is expected to be sent out to the 70,000 members of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.
Ballots will be tabulated March 30 and 60% of those voting in both unions must approve for the merger to go through.
Document was signed by eight SAG national board members — Scott Bakula, Joe d’Angerio, Elliott Gould, Valerie Harper, Ed Harris, Anne-Marie Johnson, David Jolliffe and Martin Sheen. Attorneys for the opponents released the document Sunday.
Problem areas cited in the opposition document, which received approval Friday from SAG lawyers, include assertions of the merger plan’s shortcomings in a dozen areas: pension and health; split earnings on pension and health contributions; dues structure; “preferential” treatment of broadcasters; the three-voucher system for background actors; “bloated” bureaucracy; a convention structure of governance; elected leaders ability to receive pay; majority voting rules for Hollywood reps; exchange of information; agent rules; and negotiating strength.
Inclusion of the document — limited to 1,000 words — was not required as part of the ballot materials but the SAG and AFTRA boards OK’d its inclusion last month.
Pro-merger forces have contended that SAG and AFTRA will have more clout as a combined union. The unions have asserted in a feasibility study that several hundred multi-employer pensions have merged over the past 25 years, and there is no legal obstacle to merging the SAG and AFTRA pension and health plans.
The study has also said multi-employer plan mergers do not pose any increased risk of loss of benefits. Merger backers contend that combining SAG and AFTRA will make it easier to combine the plans as a first step toward resolving the problem that performers face in making contributions to the separate plans and then not meeting the earnings qualifications.
The pro-merger reps on the SAG board have dominated elections in recent years.
SAG members turned down merger proposals in 1999 and 2003 while AFTRA members supported both combos.
Complete statement of opposition to SAG-AFTRA merger:
SAG ACTORS…HAVE YOU STUDIED THE IMPACT OF THIS MERGER?
IF NOT, HERE ARE CRITICAL FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
(Limited to the words allotted to us)
PENSION & HEALTH
SAG relies upon a “Feasibility Review.” While it concluded that a merger would be legal, no
one ever doubted Mergers are legal. What about our benefits?
SAG did not request any actuarial study regarding whether a merger would be financially safe.
Why? They know, like the AFTRA Trustees, that “the merger of pension and health funds as
large and divergent as the AFTRA and SAG plans raises complex and unique financial, legal
and benefit issues which can only be addressed through a comprehensive analysis performed
by the funds.”
Despite the express statements in Appendix I to the SAG Constitution, and Board Resolutions,
no study was conducted to assess the financial impact of a merger of Pension or Health Plans.
Are your benefits safe? The SAG and AFTRA P&H&R Plans are extremely different. Consider
merging these factors:
• SAG pension accrual rate: 2% of earnings: AFTRA: less than 1% of earnings.
• SAG early retirement penalty: 3% per year. AFTRA: DOUBLE: 6% per year.
• SAG Plan 2 annual premium (family of four): $1,620: AFTRA Individual Plan annual premium
(family of 4): $17,260
The merger plan does not even attempt to reconcile these and other differences. Experts
addressing the financial impact issues are convinced SAG members will likely suffer
diminished future benefits.
Highly respected pension and health experts Brucker & Morra have concluded:
“Until a full and formal ERISA Impact Report of how to address and
quantify these problems is completed, no one, not even pension
experts, can intelligently evaluate or quantify the probable negative
impact on the members’ pension and health benefits. The union
merger is so inextricably interconnected with the plan merger that
members cannot be asked to evaluate and vote on the Union Merger until
issues relating to the Plan Merger have been resolved and concrete
proposals formulated so the members can make informed choices.”
The issue has always been the impact on SAG member benefits, when merged with lower
AFTRA benefits. If the merger of unions is approved, SAG members will never have any
right to vote to protect their benefits by preventing merger of the Pension or Health Plans.
If you vote to merge the unions, you are removing a major hurdle to later merger of those plans.
Once the unions are merged, individual members will have no vote and no recourse regarding a
merger of Pension and Health Plans.
The merger Plan does not even address, much less solve our split earnings issues. Rather, it will
codify the problem. If merger is approved, the stated plan is to CONTINUE to split your
earnings, just like during the last 12 months. If the proposed merger is approved, without
signatures from 15% of the approximately 158,000 members, you will have no further right
to vote on this issue either.
NEW DUES STRUCTURE
If merger is approved, over 70,000 SAG-only members’ base dues will increase from $116 to
BROADCASTERS – Preferential Treatment
Broadcasters in the merged union can still work NON-UNION on basic cable networks (ESPN,
MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, FOX NEWS, etc.), with drastically discounted dues compared to actors.
Broadcaster work dues from $0 to $100,000 will be the same as actors at 1.575%. Broadcaster
work dues from $100,000 to $250,000 can be drastically discounted to .274% (and capped at
$250,000) with maximum dues of $2,184.
Actors, however, will pay 1.575% on ALL earnings up to $500,000, with maximum dues almost
400% higher: $8,073.
BACKGROUND ACTORS – THREE VOUCHER SYSTEM
The much maligned and poorly regulated Three Voucher entry requirement for SAG will
Merging unions does not guarantee more Background jobs. It can only result in more
competition for the same covered jobs.
There is no plan to streamline or eliminate duplicated services post merger. The new union will
keep all 635 SAG and AFTRA employees. Nor is there a plan to equalize the existing SAG
staff (3.5%) and SAG member (2%) pension accrual rates.
Convention will be the highest governing body in the merged union – higher than the Board of
Directors. Convention will have the authority to MERGE with more unions, set policy, control
the Constitution, without giving the membership any direct vote on such matters.
8 out of 10 National officers will be CHOSEN at Convention; not by direct member vote.
The ELECTED President will be able to delegate authority to the Executive VP, also chosen by
the Convention, not directly by members.
ELECTED LEADERS MAY RECEIVE PAY
The SAG Constitution prohibits paying elected officers and board members. The new union
Constitution opens the door for payments, currently not permitted.
MAJORITY NO LONGER RULES
Hollywood represents the majority of SAG members, and the majority of revenue. If merged,
when Hollywood has a majority, it must secure an additional 5% from other Locals,
regardless of its majority vote.
Traditionally, seats on negotiating committees were based on Division/Local earnings. That
would no longer be true. The President can simply choose members with National B
approval. Those earning the majority of revenue on specific contracts will no longer be
guaranteed majority say on those negotiating committees.
EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION
The unions have not exchanged actor contract details. We have no idea how-what-when-why
AFTRA gives away residuals in made-for-basic cable shows or other concessions to
If merged, the Board, without a member vote, can alone decide whether agents can own or be
owned by production entities. The SAG membership rejected the last agent agreement
because of this potential conflict of interest.
SAG and AFTRA have been negotiating jointly since 1981. How has that benefited SAG
members? AFTRA has routinely undercut SAG interests. A merger of actors is all that is
necessary. This merger merely handcuffs SAG.
The current merger plan solves almost nothing and adds too many inherent problems. Vote NO
and demand that our union leaders conduct the necessary due diligence to create an agreement
which will not harm actors.
For more detailed information –
Scott Bakula Ed Harris
Joe d’Angerio Anne-Marie Johnson
Elliott Gould David Jolliffe
Valerie Harper Martin Sheen