Focus may be final proposal for merger
Leaders of Hollywood’s two biggest performer unions are completing nine days of meetings off the radar to focus on what may be the final proposal for merging the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.Spokespeople for both SAG and AFTRA had no comment Sunday afternoon. The marathon meeting was scheduled with the goal of prepping the proposal to meet the unions’ previously announced goal of finishing in time for submission to the national boards at the end of the month. Several sessions have been held at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood away from the SAG and AFTRA offices. Should the national boards approve, it’s possible that the proposal could be unveiled during the SAG Awards on Jan. 29. SAG currently has about 120,000 members while AFTRA has about 70,000, with about 45,000 performers belonging to both unions. Should the proposal be approved by the national boards, members could be asked to OK the merger in a referendum that would require 60% of those voting in each union to approve. SAG members defeated merger proposals in 1999 and 2003 while AFTRA members supported both. Concerns over SAG’s loss of identity and the impact on the SAG-producers health and pension plans were raised in the 2003 vote, when a merger was supported by 58% of SAG members who voted. The official AFTRA and SAG Group for One Union has held five meetings since June to work out details such as a name, governance, financing, membership requirements and dues. Other than describing the meetings as productive, the unions have disclosed only general details about the substance of discussions. SAG’s elected leadership has been dominated in recent years by those in favor of a merger, who contend that a combined union would be more powerful and remove jurisdictional overlaps. Opponents within SAG contend that SAG should remain for actors only.