Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Do you SAG take AFTRA to love, honor and cherish ... ?"

Although they haven’t yet registered at Target, SAG and AFTRA are now closer to a walk down the matrimonial aisle than ever before. While we all consider what we might wear to the wedding, let’s consider what this pairing can mean.

It certainly wasn’t love at first site. This union has been attempted before with an ugly outcome. Now, a little older, perhaps a little wiser, both unions have been happily dating again in an attempt to finally merge its energy and its benefits, in the hopes that together they can birth a stronger, more viable union that can serve all of the needs of all of its members in this new landscape that is the new business of acting.

I think this is a great move for both unions and for all of it members. The story in today’s Los Angeles Times provides an important and articulate overview of the history of this journey. The time has come for all “performing artists” to reap the rewards of being represented by one entity that is designed to act in their best interests.

The opposition to this merger has been rooted in the question, “How can a union that represents actors also serve the best interests of newscasters and weathermen?” The simple answer is that there is no reason that it cannot.

A merged union can operate with departments dedicated to serving specific segments of its membership. A merged union can also have strength in numbers when it comes time for contract negotiations at all levels.

The bigger issue will be how will a new, single union impact those performing artists who are not currently members of either union when it comes time for them to join? Will it mean higher initiation fees? Will it mean increased dues? Will it still require three vouchers for a non-union actor to gain the opportunity to join? Will it take away the current AFTRA policy on joining requiring only an application and a check from a prospective member? What will happen to the current SAG-E status? How will the Taft-Hartley provision be impacted by this?

Clearly there are numerous questions that need to be addressed – and I trust that they will. Now that the joint committee has created an agreement for a merger that both sides of the merger team are happy with, it’s time for that document to be presented to and voted on by the boards of both unions. The next step will then be yours (if you are current a member of either or both unions).

Before you vote “yes” or” no,” perform due diligence. Read the merger document; read the fine print and consider the bigger picture of what a merger means, not just for you and your career personally, but for the business of acting as a whole.

Having not yet seen the merger agreement, and as a union member myself, I can say that on the surface, at initial contemplation, this move seems like a win-win for all parties involved.

What are your thoughts?


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