AFM joins Actors' Equity in blessing wedding

The American Federation of Musicians has endorsed the proposed merger between the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, joining Actors’ Equity in blessing the union.

The exec board of the AFM said it is in “full support” of the merger pact. “When ratified by the groups’ memberships, the uniting of the two groups will result in a more powerful and united face to represent workers in both film and broadcasting,” the AFM said.

Ballots went out this week to 120,000 SAG members and 70,000 AFTRA members, who include actors, broadcasters, DJs, singers and dancers, with a tabulation date of March 30. To be approved, the merger must receive at least 60% of the votes from each union.

“The proposed merger is a historic step and is a symbol of unity for the entertainment sector and for the entire labor movement,” said AFM president Ray Hair. “For decades, AFTRA and SAG have stood prominently and proudly for dignity and justice in the entertainment industry workplace. The joining of these two great unions will focus union power toward a better future for the media business, not only here in the United States but throughout the world.”

Should the SAG-AFTRA merger agreement be approved, new mergers would have to be approved by 60% of the voting membership or by 60% of the delegates of the new SAG-AFTRA. That means future combos with such performer unions as Equity and AFM could be OK’d without being subject to direct approval by the members of SAG-AFTRA.

Merger proponents have long asserted that combining unions is a logical response to the increasing power of the mega-congloms and contended that the combined unions will have more bargaining clout. Merger opponents, who lost power at SAG in recent years, have argued that SAG will lose its unique character as a performers union and that the combined entity won’t have more power at the negotiating table.

SAG members voted down a proposed merger in 2003, when the merged union would have been called the Alliance of Intl. Media Artists. The Actors’ Equity Council unanimously backed the “consolidation and affiliation” proposal in 2003.

Opponents of the merger filed suit last week against SAG to block the combo, alleging that leaders have not conducted “the necessary due diligence.” SAG’s labelled the suit “a clear attempt at circumventing the will of the membership” and “a public relations stunt.”

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