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AFTRA Losses Lessened in FY05

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) lost fewer members during the 2005 fiscal year than it did the previous fiscal year, according to a report filed by the union with the U.S. Department of Labor, a sign that the ire over AFTRA's 2003 dues increase may have leveled off.

The union's most recent LM-2 report, which contains financial data required annually by the federal government, showed a membership of 57,452 as of April 30, the end of the 2005 fiscal year, a drop of less than 2,000 from the previous fiscal year. The union's membership in fiscal year 2004 stood at 59,431, a decline of 5,549 from the fiscal year 2003 total of 64,980.

At the union's 60th national convention in July, AFTRA officials expressed concern about both a budget deficit and the loss of members, reporting that the sharp drop in membership since the 2003 convention in Nashville had contributed to the budget shortfall. Officials speculated that many members left because of a dues increase of 5% in each of the last two years. The union also increased its initiation fee from $1,200 to $1,300 and levied a special assessment of $50 per member in both 2003 and 2004. AFTRA members currently pay $63.90 in semiannual base dues, plus 0.743% on earnings up to $100,000 and 0.137% on earnings between $100,000 and $250,000.

Dick Moore, AFTRA's press spokesperson, said on Monday, "We anticipate and hope for a turnaround" in the membership numbers. "One of the reasons for a large drop in numbers in the fiscal year 2004 report was that AFTRA had changed procedures for determining members in good standing." By counting only those members paying their dues and assessments "in a timely fashion," Moore explained, the membership total logically dropped.

As for the union's budget, AFTRA's fiscal year 2004 LM-2 report showed an operating surplus of about $2.5 million despite the heavy membership loss, apparently a result of the previous year's dues hike. But the FY05 report shows AFTRA operating in the red again, with total receipts of $31.7 million but disbursements of $32.6 million, a deficit of just under $885,000.

The union's major receipts in fiscal year 2005 included $18.3 million in dues, $4.6 million in fees, $3.1 million in assessments, and $4.4 million in "other receipts." Major disbursements included $3.6 million for office and administrative expenses, $3.5 million for employee salaries and expenses, and $20.4 million in "other disbursements." Payments of operating funds to autonomous locals accounted for $16.8 million of those "other disbursements."

AFTRA's national officers and board members don't receive salaries for their service, but they are reimbursed for their expenses. John Connolly, the union's national president, led elected leaders with $23,436 in expenses. Other national board members with top expense sheets were Denny Delk ($10,780) and Robert Lydiard ($3,230).

Thirteen of AFTRA's senior staff recorded six-figure salaries. National Executive Director Greg Hessinger led with a salary of $340,769 and expenses of $60,963 for a total of $401,732. The Screen Actors Guild hired Hessinger away from AFTRA last March and AFTRA named Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, its associate national executive director, as its new staff chief. Her salary in fiscal year 2005 was $214,754 and she recorded expenses of $14,594 for a total of $229,348.

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