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AFTRA, SAG Look at Union

February 09, 2003|James Bates | Times Staff Writer

Directors of Hollywood's two main performers unions took their first major step Saturday toward meshing the two groups under a new umbrella labor organization that would represent actors, broadcasters and recording artists.

In a nationwide videoconference meeting, the boards of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists approved a broad set of principles aimed at folding the two labor groups into a new 150,000-member union.

The 141-3 vote directs committees from the two unions to draft a constitution, a business plan and a blueprint for the consolidation. Each union also will be allowed to examine the other's finances.

Still, Saturday's vote, which was expected, does not mean that uniting the two unions is imminent. A proposal would need more than 60% approval from each union's members, which is far from certain. Just four years ago, directors of both unions voted to merge, only to see SAG members reject the plan because some members felt their union was being shortchanged.

Mergers have been discussed periodically since 1937. Both boards also still need to address such issues as power-sharing and consolidation of pension and health plans. Each union has refrained from calling the plan a merger, since it would involve three autonomous affiliates, each with an elected president, 25-member board and bargaining committee.

The umbrella group, they say, would resemble the AFL-CIO, which oversees separate unions and is led by a president selected by delegates. The unions have argued an umbrella group would give them more clout against media giants, and end jurisdictional squabbles over such areas as which union would represent actors in the digital TV arena.

SAG represents film, TV and commercial actors, while AFTRA represents soap opera actors, game show performers and newscasters. More than 40,000 belong to both unions.

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