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Actors unions move toward joint bargaining agreement

February 27, 2010 |  5:45 pm

Hollywood's two quarrelsome actors unions took a big step toward ending their blood feud and presenting a united front in upcoming contract negotiations with the studios.

The board of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represents more than 70,000 actors, recording artists and other performers, voted Saturday to revive a longstanding joint bargaining agreement with its larger sister union, the Screen Actors Guild, which represents 120,000 actors.

The move was widely expected after a change in leadership at SAG last year led to a thawing in relations between the two groups. SAG's board is now dominated by a group of actors who favor merging the unions.

"I look forward to continuing our work with SAG President Ken Howard and the leadership and members of our sister union as we move forward to bargain the strongest possible contracts for professional talent,'' AFTRA President Roberta Reardon said in a statement.

AFTRA pulled the plug on its bargaining partnership with SAG nearly two years ago after the unions sparred over negotiating strategy and turf, freeing AFTRA to bargain its own prime-time TV contract. The fallout severely weakened SAG's leverage with the studios and allowed AFTRA to secure the lion's share of contracts for new prime-time TV shows (AFTRA does not negotiate film contracts).

Saturday's vote, assuming SAG's board follows suit, clears the way for the two unions to begin joint negotiations with the studios on a prime-time TV contract starting this fall. The unions' contracts expire in June 2011.

-- Richard Verrier