The Actors Equity Council has endorsed the proposed combo of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

The council, which approved the endorsement unanimously on Tuesday, is the first organization to back the SAG-AFTRA merger.

The resolution said that the council “strongly supports” the merger. The council has 84 members.

“I want to thank AEA President Nick Wyman and the Equity Council for their endorsement.,” said SAG president Ken Howard. “We’re honored by their action today and by the support of Equity members, who are very often members of SAG and AFTRA as well. There¹s a real spirit of unity in our ranks, and it can only serve to make us all stronger.”

AFTRA president Roberta Reardon said, “Today’s resolution of support from our sisters and brothers on the Actors’ Equity Council shows the strong solidarity we enjoy across our entertainment and media industries.”

SAG and AFTRA will mail out ballots on Feb. 27 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.

Should that merger agreement be approved, new mergers would have to be approved by the 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 Actors Equity would not be 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-conglomerates 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.

Approximately two-thirds of Equity’s 45,000 members are also in SAG and/or AFTRA. The American Federation of Musicians and the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees also endorsed the 2003 merger plan.