About 30 people staged the first public protest against the proposed merger between the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, three weeks before the proposal begins landing in member mailboxes.
“We’re very concerned that this merger is going to lead to a union that’s pro-management,” said Scott Pierce, a former SAG board member who organized the event in front of SAG and AFTRA headquarters in Los Angeles.
Pierce asserted the merged union, dubbed SAG-AFTRA, will become less accountable to members since much of the decision-making power will rest with delegates elected every two years rather than every year. “The delegate system is a template for a pro-mangement union,” he said.
Former national board members Renee Aubry, toting a sign that said “Endangered actor species,” said she believes that the merged union won’t address the unique issues that actors face. Others at the event included former national board members Peter Kwong, France Nguyen and Dewayne Williams.
Several hundred SAG and AFTRA members attended an informational meeting Thursday night with SAG president Ken Howard and AFTRA president Roberta Reardon attending. Proponents of the merger have contended that the merged union will have more power and remove jurisdicational overlaps.
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.
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,” which found no legal obstacle to such a step. Warren Berlinger, who’s organized the Union Democrary Now group, said Friday that merging the plans would harm participants in the SAG plans.
“People are terrified that they’re going to lose their pensions,” he added.
SAG members turned down merger proposals in 1999 and 2003 but supporters of the idea have dominated elections in recent years. 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.