SAG and AFTRA are likely to close a significant portion of the 30-plus offices outside Hollywood and Gotham, should the current proposal to combine the performers’ unions be voted down.
Though no plans have been finalized, union insiders believe shuttering offices would be the obvious step the unions — which both have asserted they are operating in the red — would be forced to take in order to save money.
SAG had announced last summer it would close 10 of its 25 offices by May 1, with the goal of saving $1.3 million annually, but those plans have been back-burnered due to the “consolidation and affiliation” proposal, which would create a single umbrella Alliance of Intl. Media Artists with three affiliates and 37 offices.
AFTRA, which has 33 offices, has projected a fiscal 2003 deficit of $2 million, based on $25.1 million of expenses and $23.1 million of revenue; SAG estimated earlier this year that its 2003 deficit is $6 million on revenues of $50 million, but subsequently admitted the figure is not that high. Merger opponents, led by SAG treasurer Kent McCord, contend the actual deficit is $2.6 million but has been overstated to generate support for the deal.
“It is an irrefutable reality that both unions will face significant financial challenges in the event that consolidation does not pass,” AFTRA exec Greg Hessinger told Daily Variety. “It would be inappropriate to speculate as to how the AFTRA national board will choose to address those challenges, but one thing is clear: Every available option will entail substantial hardship. Consolidation offers the best opportunity for both unions to streamline operations into an efficient model that will maximize members’ dues dollars.”
As a result of the delay in carrying out the branch restructuring, some of the SAG offices targeted for closure — including Dallas, Philadelphia, Portland and San Diego — remain open as joint AFTRA-SAG offices.
“We put some of the plans to re-structure our branch operations into a holding pattern once the consolidation was approved by the boards, since we will be operating those if the plan is approved,” explained SAG spokeswoman Ilyanne Kichaven. “If it’s not approved, we will probably have to close some of them.”
About 55% of SAG’s 98,000 members are represented by Hollywood, while another 25% are in Gotham. The remaining 20% are repped through the 23 branch offices.
SAG’s plan last year called for a trio of regional headquarters in Chicago, Miami and San Francisco, along with district executive offices in Atlanta, Austin, Bethesda, Md., Boston, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Orlando, Phoenix and Seattle. The Bethesda, Chicago and San Francisco offices will continue to be operated as joint operations with AFTRA.
Results of the SAG-AFTRA voting will be announced July 1. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. have agreed to support the merger, which must be approved by 60% of voters in both unions.