Actors unions move closer to reaching merger agreement
Emerging from a two-day meeting with representatives of SAG and its smaller sister union, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Howard said Tuesday that the labor groups have made considerable progress and expected to meet a Jan. 22 deadline for completing a merger agreement, a proposed constitution and a dues plan for a joint union.
The plan would then be subject to a ratification vote by members of each organization.
Two previous attempts at a merger of the two unions failed, most recently in 2003. But this time momentum appears to be building on both sides in support of a consolidation that would give the groups more leverage at the bargaining table with studios and end a history of rivalry that has divided the ranks of actors.
Howard declined to discuss details of the meeting held Sunday and Monday in Los Angeles -- one of several held this year to lay ground work for a merger -- but added: "I'm optimistic that it's going to get done." Howard has made merging the unions his top priority.
Although the sides have reached broad agreement in some areas, such as how members and officers should be elected, a number of thorny issues have yet to be agreed upon, including what to name the new union and eliminating duplicative branches or divisions in cities across the country. Much of the legwork will be done in a series of meetings Jan. 6-15.
-- Richard Verrier
Photo: Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times