SAG-AFTRA merger charges flying

Pleshette switches to anti-deal side

This article was corrected on June 9, 2003.

Helen Hunt has endorsed the proposed SAG-AFTRA “consolidation-and-affiliation” plan and said her name was used improperly as backing a no vote.

“My name was used by anti-consolidation forces on their list of supporters without my permission and was again used by them in their recent mailing after I had specifically asked them not to do so,” Hunt said in a statement. “I am in favor of consolidation.”

SAG alternate board member Bonnie Bartlett said the SaveSAG anti-deal group has apologized to Hunt and asserted Hunt’s name was originally used due to explicit assurances from another high-profile thesp. “Our mistake was in not double-checking,” she added.

Hunt’s name was removed May 29 from the SaveSAG Web site.

Shirley Knight has also said SaveSAG incorrectly used her name as an endorser, while John Pleshette has switched to the anti-deal side. Both campaigns have listed over 400 supporters, with Kate Mulgrew recently joining the yes campaign and Cindy Williams signing on to the no side.

Both sides have been campaigning vigorously, leading to occasional verbal confrontations outside casting offices, credit unions and the SAG film society. The SaveSAG side has been driving a mobile billboard around Los Angeles during the past week.

Ballots go out today to 98,000 SAG members and 77,000 AFTRA members and are due back June 30.

SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert and AFTRA president John Connolly –who have been active proponents of the deal since it began taking shape last year — will hold a news conference Tuesday at the Roosevelt Hotel in Gotham.

Backers of the deal contend that a merger is needed to give performers more leverage, solve jurisdictional problems and improve operational efficiency; opponents have argued that SAG will become less effective and less powerful and questioned the notion of subsequently merging the SAG and AFTRA pension and health plans. Both unions must get approval of the deal by at least 60% of those voting. A 1999 proposal to merge SAG and AFTRA was spurned after receiving only 46% support from SAG voters.

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