File: Venessa Verdugo and Eddie Kafafian, both actors in SAG, protest the potential merger between SAG and AFTRA.
Ballots on the proposed merger of AFTRA and the Screen Actors Guild are due to be counted Friday morning. By the end of this week, we could know whether or not the two main actors unions in Hollywood are becoming one.
The merger needs support from 60 percent of the membership of both unions.
Supporters, including the national leaders of SAG and AFTRA, say a merger would strengthen actors’ bargaining power at a time when media companies are consolidating and their work continues to go digital.
Opponents, mainly a group of SAG members, say it would weaken SAG’s pension and health benefits plans. They’re suing to block the merger; the judge has yet to rule.
A new report in the Hollywood Reporter says competition between the two unions has evened out considerably in primetime TV. In 2008, the report says, SAG negotiated 93 percent of the contracts for scripted primetime shows. Now it’s about an even split between AFTRA and SAG, with the number falling to about 45 percent for SAG and 55 percent for AFTRA this fall. This is the first time in at least a decade that AFTRA has controlled this high a percentage of scripted TV contracts, according to the Reporter.
The drop affects SAG's pension and health plans, as well as union dues. The merger would negate some of these concerns for SAG, as well as opening up the possibility of a merger in health and retirement plans.