×

SAG, AFTRA boards OK merger

Third attempt at union between unions

Will the third time be a charm for merging the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists?

The oft-debated issue is now in the hands of members following approvals by the national boards, with 87% of SAG’s panel backing the proposal Friday and 94% of AFTRA’s doing the same on Saturday.

The proposal goes to a vote by SAG and AFTRA members starting Feb. 27, with tabulation on March 30 — although the official campaign to merge is expected to start in the next few days. Even though not required to do so, both boards agreed to allow inclusion of opposition statements in the balloting materials.

The boards have also agreed to suspend the unions’ 2008 “nondisparagement” agreement, which barred elected reps of each union from making any public statements that were disparaging toward the other. SAG had agreed to the pact to patch up its relationship with AFTRA after AFTRA had split off from SAG in the 2008 primetime negotiations.

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.

Though many details haven’t been disclosed yet, some key points have emerged:

•The SAG name will survive and the combined union will be SAG-AFTRA. In 2003, the merged union would have been called the Alliance of Intl. Media Artists, which may have been a factor in the narrow defeat of the measure when 42% of SAG members casting ballots rejected the proposal.

•SAG’s annual elections will be replaced by contests taking place every two years, combining SAG’s direct voting structure with AFTRA’s national convention structure. The SAG-AFTRA president will be elected directly.

•AFTRA’s current policy allowing broadcast members to work at non-union locations will remain intact.

SAG president Ken Howard and AFTRA president Roberta Reardon, who have pressed the issue relentlessly over the past three years, have been touting the themes that a combined union would be more powerful, remove jurisdictional overlaps and lay the groundwork for combining the health and retirement plans. However, if the merger passes, there’s no guarantee that the industry trustees will support merging the SAG and AFTRA plans.

Merger backers will undoubtedly bring out high-profile endorsers. In 2003, that list included Angela Bassett, Jackson Browne, Nicolas Cage, Kevin Costner, George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Marlee Matlin, Willie Nelson and Kevin Spacey.

Merger opponents, who have lost influence in recent years, have contended that a merger won’t make for a stronger union and point out that SAG and AFTRA have negotiated jointly for three decades — except for the 2008 primetime TV negotiations, when AFTRA split off.

AFTRA’s board also announced Saturday that its board had approved a three-year successor contract on its Network Television Code — its largest contract, with $250 million in annual earnings. Ratification ballots go out Monday with a return date of Feb. 22.

The key part of the deal, announced Dec. 9, is a hike in employer contributions to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds from 15.5% to 16.5%. If ratified by the AFTRA members, the agreement will apply retroactively to Nov. 16, 2011, and run through Nov. 15, 2014.

The net code covers programming outside primetime drama and sitcoms including dramas in firstrun syndication, morning news shows, talkshows, soap operas, variety, reality, contest and sports. Current programs covered include “Good Morning America,” “The View,” “The Price Is Right,” “General Hospital,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “The Voice,” “Survivor,” “20/20,” “Deal or No Deal” and “Late Show With David Letterman.”

More Film

  • Bertrand Tavernier Hosts Night of Cinema

    Bertrand Tavernier Hosts Night of Cinema Inspired Orchestra in Paris

    Flanked by UniFrance president Serge Toubiana and the National Orchestra of France, filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier stood before a rapt crowd at Paris’ Maison de la Radio this past Saturday to introduce an evening dedicated to French film scores called “May the Music Begin!” That moniker – a reference to the original French title of his [...]

  • Orange Studio Sells Out 'Serial (Bad)

    Orange Studio Sells Out 'Serial (Bad) Weddings 2,' 'City Hunter' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris-based Orange Studio has nearly sold out its two French comedy highlights, Philippe de Chauveron’s “Serial (Bad) Weddings 2” and Philippe Lacheau’s “City Hunter.” “Serial (Bad) Weddings 2,” which opened the UniFrance Rendez-Vous in Paris last week, is the sequel of the smash hit film which grossed over $148 million worldwide. The movie has been [...]

  • Danmarks Sønner, en film af Ulaa

    Trailer for Rotterdam Competition Opener 'Sons of Denmark' Released (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given exclusive access to the trailer for the opening film of Rotterdam Film Festival’s Tiger Competition, “Sons of Denmark.” The film is a political thriller set in Denmark in 2025, a year after a bomb attack in Copenhagen, when ethnic tensions are running high. An ultra-nationalist politician, Martin Nordahl, and his National [...]

  • Indie Sales Acquires Martin Lund's Nordic

    Indie Sales Acquires Nordic Coming-Of-Age 'Psychobitch' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris-based company Indie Sales has acquired Martin Lund’s Norwegian coming-of-age drama “Psychobitch” which is headlined by Elli Rhiannon Müller Osbourne (“Utoya: July 22”). “Psychobitch” marks the first feature film of Martin Lund, who made his debut with “Twigson Ties the Knot,” a local box office hit, and followed up with “The Almost Man,” which won [...]

  • Studiocanal has sold Jean Paul Gaultier's

    Jean Paul Gaultier's 'Freak And Chic' Documentary Sells For Studiocanal (EXCLUSIVE)

    Underscoring the strength and scope of French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s legacy around the world, the documentary “Jean Paul Gaultier Freak And Chic,” which chronicles the making of Gaultier’s ongoing popular show in Paris, has been luring distributors in key markets. Sold by Studiocanal and produced by Capa, the documentary has already been picked [...]

  • Korea Box Office: 'MAL·MO·E' and 'Inside

    Korea Box Office: 'MAL·MO·E' and 'Inside Me' Remain on Top

    There was no change at the top of the Korean box office, as local titles “MAL·MO·E: The Secret Mission” and “Inside Me (a.k.a. The Dude in Me)” dominated a second weekend. Lotte’s “MAL·MO·E” earned $4.79 million from 618,000 admissions between Friday and Sunday for a total of $16.7 million from 2.23 million admissions after two [...]

  • TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT

    China Box Office: ‘Bumblebee’ Flies to $138 Million Total

    “Bumblebee” flew to its third weekend of dominance in China. But the Chinese box office remains in lackluster mode at the start of 2019. The spinoff of Paramount’s “Transformers” franchise earned $16.1 million in Chinese theaters between Friday and Sunday, according to data from exhibition and distribution consultancy Artisan Gateway. That was a 38% drop [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content