Dozens of members of the Screen Actors Guild who oppose a merger with AFTRA filed a lawsuit [PDF] today asking for an injunction to stop the upcoming vote on the proposed merger. Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Valerie Harper and former SAG presidents Ed Asner and Alan Rosenberg are among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
It accuses the Guild’s Board of Directors of breaching its fiduciary duty to conduct a proper study of the effects of the merger on Guild members’ pension and health benefits.
“They have done nothing of substance to support their claims that the proposed merger will protect SAG member benefits. The average SAG member makes less than $10,000 per year. They need to know that all necessary due diligence was done to protect them," said David Casselman, the attorney representing the plaintiffs.
SAG spokesperson Pamela Greenwalt responded:
"We believe that this suit is completely without merit and we will vigorously dispute all claims in court. We are confident that our actions are appropriate and consistent with the law and our own rules of procedure," the spokesperson said.
SAG said in a statement that the lawsuit was an attempt to circumvent the will of their membership and labeled the lawsuit as a "public relations stunt."
“Any suggestion that the members have not been fully and fairly informed is preposterous," SAG's statement read. "We have scheduled more than 50 informational meetings across the country, have posted all of the merger documents on the website for over 4 weeks, and we have afforded the merger opponents the right to send an opposition statement at the unions’ expense."
The SAG and AFTRA boards both voted overwhelmingly to support the merger and plan to send ballots early next week for a vote. The boards published a feasibility study of combining the two unions’ health and pension plans. It concludes that such mergers create more cost-efficient, and more stable plans and do not put members at risk of losing benefits. Sixty percent of both unions’ members must vote to support the merger.