AFTRA link with AFL-CIO could weaken Four A's

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AFTRA, which seeks to affiliate directly with the AFL-CIO in a move opposed by SAG, has gotten some traction on that proposal.

But the performer's union also was made aware of concerns expressed by AFL-CIO's executive council -- unsurprising, considering that newly re-elected SAG president Alan Rosenberg sits on the council (HR 9/21).

After reviewing AFTRA's affiliation request at a regularly scheduled meeting Friday, the council gave AFL-CIO president John Sweeney standing authority to issue a charter. But it also indicated that certain unspecified concerns first must be answered regarding the effect on the "Four A's" group, which AFTRA wants to bolt in the process.

AFTRA has had an indirect relationship with the AFL-CIO via its membership in Associated Actors and Artistes of America. SAG also belongs to the group, and guild leadership believes the Four A's would be weakened if AFTRA is allowed to leave.

AFTRA members approved a proposal to leave the Four A's and affiliate directly with the AFL-CIO in July at the union's biennial convention in Philadelphia.

"Direct affiliation will put AFTRA members on equal footing with other workers in the entertainment and media unions, with whom AFTRA members share common interests for organizing and negotiating stronger contracts with large national and multinational corporations," AFTRA president Roberta Reardon said Friday.

"Doing business the old way is simply no longer tenable," she said. "We appreciate the support of President Sweeney and the executive council in recognizing the clear mandate of AFTRA's delegates, who voted for direct affiliation and the importance of finalizing direct affiliation expeditiously given the rapid changes in the media and entertainment industries in which our members work."

AFTRA officials said they would cooperate with the AFL-CIO to attempt to secure the direct affiliation.

But officials of the performers union also acknowledged AFL-CIO concerns over "the impact of direct affiliation on the Associated Actors and Artistes of America."

Top leadership of SAG and AFTRA previously met with Sweeney and other AFL-CIO officials to make their respective cases on the affiliation petition.

AFTRA also recently announced a new "strategic alliance" with IATSE, which represents many of Hollywood's blue-collar and crafts workers (HR 7/26). Labor community observers see the AFL-CIO and IATSE initiatives as shaping a more assertive posture for AFTRA, which has seen its relationship with SAG wilt under criticism from the guild on jurisdictional issues.

SAG officials claim AFTRA often encroaches on its cable TV turf by offering contracts for lesser terms than SAG pacts. Some in SAG also grouse that AFTRA allows members to work on nonunion shows, a practice SAG rules prohibit but which AFTRA contends plants seeds for future organizing efforts.
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