SAG Forms Merger Task Force

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The Screen Actors Guild has taken a huge step forward down the path toward merger with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The guild's national board of directors voted unanimously on Saturday to create a merger task force to work with AFTRA.

The board’s resolution instructed the task force “to meet with representatives of AFTRA as soon as practicable, but no later than June 2011, to initiate the development of a plan to create a successor union formed from the best elements of both SAG and AFTRA.” SAG president Ken Howard will lead the task force.

“The message from SAG and AFTRA members across the country has been clear—they want this done as soon as possible,” Howard said in a written statement. “If our boards approve the merger plan in January, our members will make the final decision through a referendum vote less than a year from now. I’m proud that we’ve taken a major step today, and I’m extremely grateful for the unanimous support of the SAG national board. I also want to thank AFTRA national president Roberta Reardon, whose remarkable leadership has been essential in bringing us to this point.”

Statements of support came from all of SAG’s top elected officers, among them New York division president and 2nd national vice president Mike Hodge. “The labor movement is under attack in this country,” Hodge said. “As performers, we have to fight back harder than ever before, and joining together in one union is the strongest way forward.”

The board also approved a mission statement for what it calls the “successor union” to SAG and AFTRA. The mission statement has already been approved by the joint SAG-AFTRA Presidents’ Forum for One Union, which was formed in October.

“The successor union … brings together two great American labor unions: Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists,” the mission statement begins. “Both were formed in the turmoil of the 1930s, with rich histories of fighting for and securing the strongest protections for media artists. Our members united to form the successor union in order to preserve those hard-won rights and to continue the struggle to extend and expand those protections into the 21st century and beyond.”

Reardon, who for the last few months has been engaged in a “listening tour” with Howard, gathering feedback on merger from members of both unions, greeted news of the SAG decision warmly.

“We are pleased that the SAG national board of directors has voted to authorize the creation of a formal task force to begin discussions with AFTRA concerning the creation of a new successor union, and that it has approved the draft mission statement for the successor union, which was developed at the April 2-3 meeting of the AFTRA and SAG Presidents’ Forum for One Union,” Reardon said in a written statement. AFTRA’s board will consider the mission statement at its May 14 meeting, where the board is also expected to approve the creation of an AFTRA counterpart to the SAG task force. The AFTRA version will be called the AFTRA New Union Committee.

On Sunday, SAG’s board voted to approve a new, recently negotiated industrial and education contract. The agreement will now be sent out to members for a ratification vote. Ballots will be mailed May 9 and must be returned by June 8.