SAG Speaks On Merger
The SAG members who expressed con viewpoints ("Four Expound on Union Merger") rely on questionable points:
One argument used against merger relates to how difficult it is to find work as an actor and background performer. Acting is difficult and competitive. That won't change with merger. "31,000 more members" will not be added to the pool. There will be the same number of actors if merger passes as before. All actors‹SAG, AFTRA and non-union‹compete for all jobs now. If an AFTRA member can get a job on "Law & Order," s/he joins SAG. The change in professional competition within any one category of roles will be minimal.
Another argument relates to the AFTRA and SAG welfare funds. While the trustees of the two plans have voted not to merge in the past, that does not preclude a different conclusion in the future. The key here is that merger in and of itself will not change the SAG Pension & Health Plans or the AFTRA Health & Retirement Plans. Earned benefits are safe, and members will continue to be credited with future earnings for each Plan as before. It may in fact be more likely for the plans to merge if the unions are merged as well, but the issues are separate.
A third argument speaks to AFTRA's "debt." It's true that AFTRA, like SAG (and just about every company in America) is running a deficit, quite common in an operating budget. But a deficit in operating expenses is not bankruptcy. Deficits are paid from accumulated reserves, and each union has adequate reserves for the present (approximately $13.5 million each).
Other points that bear repeating:
The vast majority of AFTRA members are also actors as well; membership under merger would still be primarily actors; and AFTRA's "open door policy" will end the day a positive merger vote is announced; SAG's membership rules will take effect immediately.
John H. Sucke
Executive Director, SAG/NY