The crowd at SAG headquarters in Los Angeles broke into song after the announcement, singing, "We have overcome."
The vote among SAG members 82 percent in favor – a stunningly high number -- and among AFTRA members, it was 86 percent in favor. Sixty percent approval by each union was required. SAG-AFTRA national co-presidents Ken Howard and Roberta Reardon announced the results at 1:35 p.m. PT.
More than 55,000 SAG ballots and 37,500 AFTRA ballots were returned.
Approval by AFTRA members was never in doubt: They had voted “yes” in the 1998-99 and 2003 merger attempts. But SAG members had voted “no” both times. In 2003, SAG’s “yes” votes fell about 2 percent short; 640 votes would have swung the result.
Ballots were mailed to 131,000 members of one or both unions Feb. 27 and were due back at the Seattle-area offices of Integrity Voting Systems by Friday morning. The results of the merger vote were live streamed at 1 p.m. PT at sagaftra.org, a campaign website that presumably would have become the online home of the new union. More than 6,000 viewers watched the announcement online.
The merger campaign was hard fought and included a lawsuit that sought to block the vote count. A federal judge denied that injunction Wednesday, but the lawsuit lives on, as does a threat of a class-action suit a year or so from now.
The merger process began in late 2010, or mid-2008, if measured from the initial formation of SAG’s pro-merger Unite for Strength slate -- or in the 1930s, if measured from the formation of SAG and pre-television AFTRA predecessor AFRA, both of whose creation independent of Actors’ Equity even then raised questions as to whether performers ought to be represented by a single union, not two or three.
SAG represents more than 125,000 actors who work in film and digital motion pictures and TV programs, commercials, video games, corporate/educational, Internet and all new-media formats. AFTRA represents more than 70,000 performers, journalists and other artists working in the entertainment and news media.
- The Hollywood Reporter