HOLLYWOOD — The American Federation of Television & Radio Artists has announced that it will oppose a proposed settlement in a long-running suit filed against its health and retirement funds by a group of 1960s recording artists.
The 1993 suit alleges that the union’s funds failed to collect proper pension and health contributions from the record companies over a 35-year period. The settlement hearing has been set for June 20 in Atlanta.
“This proposed settlement is manifestly unfair to artists,” said AFTRA national exec director Greg Hessinger in a statement released Thursday. “There is no question that the funds and the named plaintiffs have a right to settle their litigation at a price they deem appropriate. But when that price includes sacrificing the rights of thousands of artists who have never had a voice in this suit, AFTRA has a duty to give those artists a voice.”
Reps for the AFTRA funds were not available for comment.
Samuel Moore, of the duo Sam & Dave, filed the original suit against AFTRA, its funds and several record companies. Moore was joined by other artists including Curtis Mayfield and members of the Coasters, the Drifters, the Chambers Brothers and the Shirelles.
The proposed settlement only affects the AFTRA funds since the portion of the suit against the federation was dismissed in 1993; the allegations against the companies remain in litigation.
AFTRA said that although the plaintiffs were unable to obtain court certification for a class action, the settlement would cover all vocal recording artists who have generated recordings for the record labels prior to 1996.
Hessinger said AFTRA had asked the trustees of the funds to modify the settlement but had been unsuccessful in fully addressing its “fundamental flaws.” By law, half of the trustees are appointed by AFTRA’s national board and the other half are reps of the major AFTRA signatories.
“AFTRA enjoys a wonderful, productive and symbiotic relationship with the funds, so this was not an easy decision,” Hessinger noted.