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Actors unions start formally discussing merger

June 19, 2011 |  6:34 pm

The Screen Actors Guild and its smaller sister union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, have begun formal discussions to merge their unions.

Committees approved by the respective boards of the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA to come up with a plan to combine the unions met for the first time this weekend at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md.

The AFTRA New Union Committee and the the SAG Merger Task Force established working groups to address various issues of concern raised by members, such as what dues they would have to pay in the new union, how it would be structured, and what effect the merger would have on their health and pension benefits.

The meetings were the first of several to be held this year by the merger committees, which were recently created by the boards of each union, which already have approved a mission statement for a consolidated union. The committees were given until January to come with a merger plan, including drafting a constitution and a dues policy.

Leaders of each union are backing the merger plans as a strategy to give them more bargaining clout with their employers and to avoid jurisdictional fights that have led to feuds in the past.

In a joint statement, AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon and Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard praised the unions’ inaugural meeting, saying: "We know the members of the successor union will be well served by their diligent and hard work during the months to come.”

AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, who addressed the groups Friday, offered words of support. “I encourage you to keep an open mind and base your decision not on any preconceived notions but on this measure alone: what is best for our members, our unions and our future,” he said. “Whatever your decision, the 12 million members of the AFL-CIO will support you.”

The weekend’s meetings were facilitated by Susan J. Schurman, a professor at Rutgers' School of Management and Labor Relations, and labor consultant Peter S. DiCicco. The next meeting of the full AFTRA and Screen Actors Guild Group for One Union is scheduled for Aug. 27–28 in New York.

-- Richard Verrier


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