Could rule at any time on suit, SAG's motion to dismiss

The federal judge handling the anti-merger suit over the proposed combo between SAG and AFTRA canceled on Monday the March 26 hearing set for the matter.

U.S. District Court Judge James Otero’s order means the jurist could rule at any time on the suit and on SAG’s motion to dismiss the suit.

“The judge obviously believes he has enough information to rule on the motions before him,” said plaintiffs’ attorney David Casselman of Wasserman, Comden, Casselman & Esensten.

Votes on the merger are set to be counted on March 30. The lawsuit, filed Feb. 22 by Martin Sheen, Ed Harris and more than 60 other actors, asks that a preliminary injunction be imposed to prevent the counting from taking place.

The suit alleges SAG and its leaders are attempting to merge “without conducting the necessary due diligence” while SAG has labeled the suit “a clear attempt at circumventing the will of the membership” and “a public relations stunt.”

A total of 131,000 ballots have been mailed to Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists members, touting the combo as giving performers more bargaining clout. To be approved, the merger must receive at least 60% of the votes from each union.

The lawsuit contends that SAG is violating its own rules by not conducting a comprehensive analysis of combining the SAG and AFTRA pension and health plans — which are operated separately from the unions and overseen by union-industry boards. The unions’ summary of the feasibility study, containing opinions of seven attorneys with experience in the field, noted that several hundred multiemployer pensions have merged over the past 25 years and that there is no legal obstacle to merging the SAG and AFTRA pension and health plans.

SAG members turned down merger proposals in 1999 and 2003 while AFTRA members supported both combos.

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