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Actors unions' appear ready to walk down the aisle

May 6, 2010 |  6:51 pm

Hollywood's once-bickering actors' unions appear to be warming up to the idea of a marriage.

That's the takeaway from an upbeat message published in the Screen Actors Guild magazine from a guild task force exploring the idea of merging SAG with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The guilds earlier this year opted to restore a long-term bargaining partnership that had broken off two years ago because of a host of disagreements.

Although previous attempts at merging the unions failed, relations "have improved significantly" and union leaders are now "openly discussing the potential for a permanent partnership," the task force said.

"Management's ability to divide our work is costing members more than ever," the message read. "Of course, the defining reason to form a single union is clear: Our bargaining power is increased if we cannot be divided. If we give our employers only one outlet for the skilled performers they need, we can maximize our ability to secure strong compensation and protections for the work we do."

The statement follows a similar "open letter" from AFTRA's leaders in which they endorsed the concept of creating a "new, strong national union" that would combine the resources of both organizations, which have about 44,000 members in common. In addition to actors, AFTRA also represents disc jockeys, recording artists and broadcast journalists.

Although the presidents of both unions are on board with the idea, a process for merging has yet to be agreed on. What's more, an overwhelming majority of members in each guild would have to endorse the idea before it could take effect. Such a vote would probably not occur until next year, after the next round of contract negotiations with the studios begins this fall.

-- Richard Verrier

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