The final act in the drama over whether the two big actors unions SAG and AFTRA would merge played out Friday, with the two unions' members voting for them to join together.
The announcement came half an hour late, with spokespeople saying they were running behind, but when the moment of truth came, SAG and AFTRA members chose to become one union. Over 6,000 watched the announcement play out online in the live streaming video, with the presidents of both unions announcing the merger together.
"In a single day, our future has become brighter," SAG President Ken Howard said.
The AFTRA votes were announced first by AFTRA President Roberta Reardon, with 86 percent of AFTRA voting members voting in favor of the merger. SAG was announced next by SAG President Howard (who you may know as executive Hank Hooper on "30 Rock"), with 82 percent of SAG members voting in favor of the merger. Each exceeded the 60 percent needed for approval. Over 37,500 AFTRA members voted and over 55,000 SAG members voted.
"Many of our friends in the labor union are watching across the country and joining with us today in celebrating this moment," said Reardon. She added that that "there is power in a union."
The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists together have about 150,000 members. The presidents of SAG and AFTRA now become co-presidents of the new merged union.
Supporters of the merger have said it comes down to strength in numbers, especially in a rapidly changing media landscape.
Opponents include actor Martin Sheen and former SAG president Ed Asner. They say the merger isn’t a bad idea, but they say this plan hurts the SAG pension and health benefits, as Asner explains in a video urging actors to vote no.
“I'm not speaking against the merger at some future time, but this one sucks," Asner says.
Opponents went to court to try and stop the vote, saying SAG failed to adequately study how the merger would impact health and pension benefits. A federal judge this week threw out the case, saying it's not in the purview of the court.