Senior SAG members spar over merger’s impact on pensions

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Members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists (AFTRA) have until March 30 to vote on whether the two unions should merge, but grumbling from some veteran SAG members has been steadily growing since the proposal's announcement.

They're concerned about the merger’s effect on their pensions.

At a recent protest against the merger, Warren Berlinger said his SAG pension covers the mortgage payments on his Chatsworth home.

"If the pension fails, I’m going to have to move out of my house," Berlinger concluded.

Berlinger joined SAG in 1956 and he has since appeared in more than 1,000 TV shows. Merger opponents argue that SAG’s pension plan is much stronger than AFTRA’s, and that combining the two would create a much weaker plan.

"But the other side says, 'We'll worry about that after the merger,'" says Berlinger. "Well, wait a second? Why can’t you give us answers now?"

But Mimi Cozzens, a SAG veteran of 60 years, begs to differ.

"Our pensions are federally protected," says Cozzens, also a member of AFTRA's national board. "They’re not going to go anywhere."

She maintains that merging the unions will give them the power to bargain with employers for greater pension contributions.

"Because we will be together. We won’t be fighting each other."

She describes that as simply "a race to the bottom."

Sixty percent of the members of each union must approve the merger before it takes effect.

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