Members of both the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) are now being asked to vote on merging the unions, following overwhelming approval by the national boards of each union. Ballots go out to members next week, but they can already read the 20-page booklet spelling out the arguments for and against the merger.
Not only that, but an online informational meeting is set for Wednesday (2/22), along with local meetings begin conducted across the country.
Union leaders are pushing hard for approval of the merger, arguing that combining the two unions will improve their bargaining strength and keep the Hollywood studios from playing one against the other. They note that 94% of the AFTRA National Board and 87% of the SAG National Board voted for the merger.
But critics within the unions also get their say. A statement from merger opponents within the AFTRA board claims that important questions about benefits and pension rights have not been addressed and that the new organization reduces the voting rights of members on setting union policies. A statement from SAG critics also complains about the differences in pension benefits and charges that SAG members are likely to see their benefits reduced by merging with AFTRA.
In rebuttal, union leaders say benefits have already been declining in recent years and that the merger opponents have failed to offer any solutions, only criticism.