The combined SAG-AFTRA is projected to bring in 17% more in member dues revenues — or close to $1 million a month — than the unions now generate as separate entities, according to court documents stemming from the lawsuit filed last month attempting to block the merger.
Screen Actors Guild chief financial officer Arianna Ozzanto made the disclosure as part of SAG’s motions in opposition to the suit filed by Martin Sheen and 60 other actors. A hearing has been set for March 26 — four days before the unions are skedded to count the votes in the merger referendum.
Merger backers have not previously disclosed how much the total dues revenues would be should the unions combine.
“The amount of dues currently projected to be received by SAG-AFTRA for the billing year that begins on May 1, 2012, is projected to be approximately $6 million per month,” Ozzanto said. “Thus, SAG-AFTRA will lose $6 million for each month that any merger of SAG-AFTRA is delayed. The difference between the amount of dues that would have been would be payable to SAG separately and to AFTRA separately if the merger does not occur is approximately $982,000 per month.”
The suit, filed Feb. 22, alleges that SAG and its leaders are attempting to merge with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists “without conducting the necessary due diligence.” SAG has labeled the suit “a clear attempt at circumventing the will of the membership” and “a public relations stunt” and has moved to dismiss it.
Ozzanto noted in her declaration that if the merger isn’t consummated, it’s not realistic for SAG to collect dues on a month-to-month basis since SAG dues are calculated on an annual basis with six months of the dues payable at the beginning of each billing year.
“We do not have the software in place to send a bill for one month,” she said. “In addition, since the current dues structure is mandated by the SAG constitution, we could not do so anyway.”
For the fiscal year ended April 30, SAG dues amounted to $48.8 million and AFTRA’s totaled $22.5 million, according to the LM-2 reports filed by the unions with the U.S. Labor Dept. SAG’s base dues are $116 annually and 1.85% of earnings up to $200,000, plus 0.5% of earnings between $200,000- $500,000 and 0.25% of earnings between $500,000-$1 million.
AFTRA’s base dues are $127.80 plus 1.49% of earnings up to $100,000 and 0.274% of earnings between $100,000 – $250,000.
The dues structure in the merger will see base dues for dual card holders will fall nearly 20% from $243 to $198 per year with working dues of 1.575% of earnings up to $500,000, except for broadcasters, would pay 1.575% of earnings up to $100,000 plus 0.274% up to $250,000.
SAG’s filings also included a declaration from SAG general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland disclosing that SAG’s national board voted in 2008 to terminate the Phase I agreement, which spells out the rules for joint negotiations and taking steps toward merger. In March, 2008, AFTRA leaders angrily split from joint talks with SAG for the first time in three decades following a dispute over actors wanting to switch jurisdiction over a soap opera from AFTRA to SAG.
SAG had not previously disclosed the Phase I termination, according to plaintiffs’ attorney David Casselman of Wasserman, Comden, Casselman & Esensten. He told Variety that he will attack the lack of disclosure to members in a court filing, asserting that constitutional requirements covering pre-merger studies were never suspended.
“SAG is taking the position to avoid imposition of the necessary injunction, that a 2008 suspension to permit negotiations to go forward, permanently terminated all of those protections the members reasonably believe controlled the committee studies leading up to the proposed merger,” he added The unfiltered SAG claim to the contrary, never disclosed to SAG members, can only be described as a betrayal and stunning breach of their fiduciary duties.”