BREAKING… 3RD UPDATE: The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists are now one union effective immediately. The announcement was greeted with huge cheers, applause, hugs, and the mass singing of “We Shall Overcome” inside the headquarters. SAG President Ken Howard and AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon, both strong advocates of the merger, announced the referendum results today in Los Angeles saying, “SAG-AFTRA is born.” Howard continued, “This is the day that we have decisively chosen a path of unity and strength. This is the culmination of years of work. People have worked for this goal for decades. We stand on your shoulders. The members wanted merger, they wanted it as soon as possible and, member, you can be assured that you were heard. You have sent a message to our employers. You have said loud and clear this is not a fractured group but a united group. We are committed to helping to shape the future of the industries. In a single day our future has become brighter.”
After the announcement Howard told Deadline that “relief” was his persnal reaction to the refrendum result. “This merger was so necessary to the future of actors and I wanted it be resoundingly approved,” he said. “That they approved it with such a massive mandate is a huge answer for us going forward.” The single union now represents more than 150,000 actors, announcers, broadcasters journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals. Their work can be seen and heard in theaters, on television and radio, sound recordings, the Internet, games, mobile devices and home video.
Immediately, the AMPTP which represents Big Media’s studios and networks stated about the merged union: “The AMPTP looks forward to a cooperative relationship with the new performers’ organization as we endeavor to address the challenges of operating in an industry undergoing transformation.” The Directors Guild as well as the Writers Guild West and East also sent congratulations.
One nagging issue which no one at today’s podium wanted to address with substance was the future (and possible merger) of the SAG and AFTRA pension and health plans. Said SAG Executive Director David White who also has been on the Board Of Trustees of the SAG P&HP: “I think today we are celebrating but we are going to begin the process. But we don’t have much more to add at this point.” And Ken Howard said, “I think they will get a lot stronger over time. We were able to clear up a lot of misconceptions. Let me give you an example, vested pensions are protected by federal law. So they will not be diluted.”
The referendum results were:
105,368 number of ballots mailed.
81.9 percent yes votes
53 percent returned
65,744 number of ballots mailed.
86.18 percent of yes votes
51.7 percent returned
Big cheers erupted when Ken Howard said, “Let me introduce my esteemed SAG-AFTRA Co-President Roberta Reardon, who said, “What an incredible culmination of two years of hard work. We stand as one. This new union will give us the collective voice and presence to protect our present contracts. Finally we are able to speak with one unified voice. In life there’s rarely reward without risk. There is power in a union.”
Asked by Deadline what they had to say to the anti-merger forces, Reardon replied: “I encourage them to stay involved. It’s a big tent.” To which Howard said, “Ditto”.
AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth said: “This is a historic day not just for our members but the American labor movement… Today’s vote is a bold statement that union solidarity is alive and well and will not be denied.”
The first convention of the new ‘SAG-AFTRA’ union is scheduled to be held in Los Angeles around September 2013. Click here to see the merger agreement document. The results, tallied by Integrity Voting Systems, were also streamed live online Friday afternoon. A result of 60% or more from the valid returned ballots cast in each union’s vote was required for the merger to be approved. More than 131,000 ballots were sent out on February 27th to members of both unions. The deadline for ballots to be returned to be counted was 10 AM PST today. Union members were encouraged to approve the merger by their respective national boards who claimed that “one union will increase our bargaining leverage”. But anti-merger forces led by Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Anne-Marie Johnson, and other high profile critics cited concerns about other issues, including the lack of a formal study to determine how SAG’s and AFTRA’s health and pension plans would be handled after the merger. The anti-merger group went to court to stop the vote. But on March 28, Judge James Otero dismissed their effort. However, Otero did allow the anti-merger force’s claims that the SAG board breached fiduciary duties in the proposed merger and of breach of contract to continue in the courts. But today’s referendum culminates a merger effort that has been rejected in the past by SAG members several times.
Here is the SAG-AFTRA announcement:
LOS ANGELES (March 30, 2012) — The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild are pleased to announce that members of both organizations have overwhelmingly voted to approve a merger, creating a new entity, SAG-AFTRA. SAG members voted 82 percent in favor of the merger. AFTRA members favored the merger with 86 percent, exceeding the 60 percent threshold needed for both unions’ membership for passage. (more…)