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Howard, Reardon to co-chair SAG-AFTRA

Leadership to remain until at least May 2013

Ken Howard and Roberta Reardon will become co-presidents of SAG-AFTRA for at least a year — should the proposed merger between the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio go through.

SAG and AFTRA have not released details on the merger plan, OK’d over the weekend by the two national boards. But people with knowledge have told Variety that the proposal provides that the current elected leadership of the two unions will remain in place with a joint governing structure until at least May 2013.

That means a co-presidency for Howard and Reardon, a joint role for SAG secretary-treasurer Amy Aquino and AFTRA secretary-treasurer Matt Kimbrough and a single national board for members of the SAG and AFTRA national boards.

The new election structure will begin to go into effect next year between May and August, when the contests for president, secretary-treasurer and most board members will take place. An exec VP and seven other VPs will be elected at a convention in September 2013.

Details of the plan will be unveiled this week, and the ballots will be mailed out Feb. 27 with a March 30 tabulation date.

The geographic makeup of the new board will be determined by the residency of dues-current members of the union, which is expected to have 140,000 members. As of the end of last year, Hollywood would be repped by 48% of seats on the board.

Hollywood has about 60% of SAG board seats currently, with 25% allocated to New York and the rest repped by regional offices.

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.

The 45,000 thesps who belong to both SAG and AFTRA will receive two ballots, one for each union. SAG members defeated merger proposals in 1999 and 2003 while AFTRA members supported both.

The initiation fee for SAG-AFTRA will be $3,000 — a hike for those belonging to a single union but a savings for dual cardholders. Current initiation fee is $2,230 at SAG and $1,600 at AFTRA.

The yearly dues will be $198, with SAG-AFTRA taking 1.575% of earnings up to a maximum of $8,073. For broadcasters, the dues rate will be 1.575% on earnings up to $100,000, dropping to .274% for earnings between $100,001 and $250,000 to a maximum of $2,184.

AFTRA’s current policy allowing broadcast members to work at single-employer non-union locations will remain intact. But members will remain barred from working for multiemployer non-union locations.

AFTRA also announced Monday that its members have ratified the three-year successor deal on the AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Sound Recordings. The previous deal expired on Dec. 31, so the new contract is retroactive to Jan. 1 and runs through Dec. 31, 2014.

AFTRA said highlights of the contract include an increase in base rates of 2% each year of the contract; an increase in the employer health and retirement contribution rate on royalty income by 1% over the life of the agreement; the retention of required special employer contributions that guarantee health insurance benefits for royalty artists on the current “roster” of a label by increasing the maximum on employer contributions from $5,000 to $6,500 per year; improved and expanded performers’ base of participation in revenue from sale of digital downloads; and the establishment of a new structure of revenue-based payments for new areas of low-budget licenses and licenses for nontraditional usages, such as reuse of recordings in novelty consumer products.

The sound recordings code generates more than $140 million in annual earnings for AFTRA members. It covers singers, royalty and nonroyalty artists, as well as announcers, actors, comedians, narrators and sound effects artists who work on recordings in all new and traditional media and all music formats, in addition to audiobooks, comedy albums and cast albums.

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