Two labor unions that support the Hollywood entertainment industry sent ballots this week to about 131,000 members of each organization, seeking approval of a proposed merger. SAG and AFTRA have tried — and failed — to join forces twice since the late 1990s. But this time, 87 percent of SAG’s Board of Directors supports the merger, as do celebs like George Clooney, Glenn Close and Tom Hanks.
Not everyone’s on board though. Dozens of members who oppose the merger filed suit last week accusing the Guild’s Board of Directors of not giving members enough information about the merger’s true impact, especially in terms of pension and health benefits. Plaintiffs include actors Martin Sheen, Valerie Harper and Anne Marie Johnson, as well as former SAG Presidents Ed Asner and Alan Rosenberg.
They argue that the Guild has done nothing to support its claims that the benefits of average SAG members, who make less than $10,000 per year, will be protected. SAG and AFTRA reps say voting members have all the information they need to make an informed decision about the merger, including a pension and health feasibility study published online and sent along with ballots. Only 60 percent of the unions’ members must vote yes, to ratify the merger and members have until March 30 to return their ballots.
Will the two entertainment unions finally become one? Or will merger opponents manage to block the vote? What are the key issues that might stand in the way?
Ned Vaughn, 1st Vice President and Chair of the Hollywood Division, Screen Actors Guild (SAG)
Anne-Marie Johnson, a 14-year Screen Actors Guild national board member and former 1st Vice President; actress and star of several hit television series and features