SAG – AFTRA: One Union Prevails!

Los Angeles, CA — It was announced early this afternoon of March 30th, that the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Arts would become one union.

Ken Howard, SAG President and AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon, jointly announced the referendum results today to a room full of media and supporters.

The voting results needed to be 60% plus of the returned ballots cast from each of the union members.  Over 131,000 ballots were sent out to both unions combined with the deadline to vote being Friday, March 30th at 10AM PST.

Although there were heated debates on both sides of the merger, pro and con, the members of SAG and AFTRA decided that the claim “one union will increase our bargaining leverage” was in fact on target, hence the approval of the merger.

The anti-merger faction lead by actors Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Anne-Marie Johnson, and other high profile critics cited issues like not enough information on how health and pension plans would merge, among others, as reasons to vote against the merger.

“The merger of these two unions is a huge victory for our members, and it is a monumental achievement for the labor movement,” said SAG-AFTRA National Co-President Roberta Reardon. “As this vote today proves, great and transformative things are possible when working Americans stand together and shape their collective destiny through their union. I applaud every member who voted, and invite all members, locally and nationally, to join with us in building a successor union worthy of AFTRA and SAG.”

In July 2010, Reardon and Howard, as presidents of AFTRA and SAG respectively, created the Presidents’ Forum for One Union to facilitate focused and informed discussions between leaders of the two unions and their members to establish a common vision for a single, new national union.

The forum included a nationwide Listening Tour, in which Howard and Reardon traveled to cities across the country to connect with members and solicit their feedback for a possible merger. They received an overwhelmingly positive response.

In June 2011, elected member leaders from both unions formed the Group for One Union — known as G1 — which subsequently created workgroups to focus on key areas such as governance, collective bargaining and operations for the proposed new union. In late January, the National Boards of AFTRA and SAG overwhelmingly voted to send the merger package to members for ratification.

The following are results for both unions:

  • SAG:
    105,368 number of ballots mailed.
    81.9 percent yes votes
    53 percent returned
  • AFTRA:
    65,744 number of ballots mailed.
    86.18 percent of yes votes
    51.7 percent returned

SAG was the nation’s largest labor union representing working actors represents more than 125,000 principal and background actors who work in film and digital motion pictures and television programs, commercials, video games, corporate/educational, Internet and all new media formats.  the International Federation of Actors.

AFTRA on the other hand represented 70,000 performers in 32 locals across the country including actors, broadcasters, singers, dancers, announcers, hosts, comedians, and disc jockeys across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audio books, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet and other digital media. As of late AFTRA has been the union with more of the TV series for actors.

Moving forward the strengths of these two Hollywood mainstays will be united as one – although the work has just begun as they move forward to work out the minutia on how their members will be best served.