Opponents say merged union will become less democratic

Opposition has begun emerging to the proposed merger between the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, three weeks before ballots go out.

Opponents are asserting that the merged union, dubbed SAG-AFTRA, will become less democratic with leaders more insulated from members. They’ve scheduled an anti-merger rally for 1 p.m. Friday in front of SAG and AFTRA headquarters in Los Angeles.

“These are dangerous times for actors,” longtime guild activist Scott Wilson told Variety. “Seventy-eight years of a democratic union are in peril because the board will make unilateral decisions without regard to the membership.”

The merger proposal will be sent to 120,000 SAG members and 70,000 AFTRA members, who include actors, broadcasters, DJs, singers and dancers. To pass, the referendum would need a 60% approval margin from both orgs among votes cast. SAG and AFTRA will mail out ballots Feb. 27 to 120,000 SAG members and 70,000 AFTRA members, with a tabulation date of March 30. To be approved, the merger must receive at least 60% of the votes from each union.

Governance of the merged union will rely partly on AFTRA’s current system of voting by delegates elected to a biannual convention. Under the new constitution, future mergers could be approved by a 60% vote of the delegates instead of the current direct vote of members.

Opponents are also objecting to the lack of a comprehensive analysis of combining the SAG and AFTRA pension and health plans and by the assertions by the unions in their “feasibility study.” The summary of the study, based on opinions by attorneys, found there’s no legal obstacle to merging the plans and that multiemployer plan mergers do not pose any increased risk of loss of benefits.

“There’s been no substantion of the benefits by creditable study,” Wilson said.

Wilson, whose credits date back to “In Cold Blood,” is a regular on “The Walking Dead.”

SAG’s board appproved the merger plan on Jan. 27 with 88 percent supporting and AFTRA’s board OKd the proposal the next day with 94 percent support.

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