AFTRA forges alliance with IATSE

Will explore strategies with crafts and trades union

AFTRA continues to reshape its labor community posture.

The 70,000-member union, which represents performers and other artists, said Wednesday that it has struck a strategic alliance with IATSE, the crafts and trades union with about 110,000 members, including an estimated 30,000 members in Los Angeles alone.

The action follows a move announced at last week's AFTRA convention to strike a direct relationship with the AFL-CIO. That built upon its previous indirect link through the so-called Four A's group, a collection of such entertainment entities as SAG, Actors' Equity and the American Guild of Musical Artists.

"It grows out of our desire to strike strategic alliances with a large number of entertainment unions," AFTRA spokesman John Hinrichs said of the IATSE announcement. "We have worked with IATSE in the past on a number of ventures, (and) what this says is that we're gong to sit down to figure out ways of working together to benefit our members on a continuing basis."

Hinrichs added, "There are no plans at this point to merge."

Added IATSE president Thomas Short: "A closer relationship between the IA and AFTRA will work to ensure that all our members across all of our disciplines speak with one strong voice in the entertainment workplace. There are so many areas we can work together. We are looking forward to exploring them with strategies that can bring us positive results."

AFTRA national president Robert Reardon, newly elected to a full two-year term at the convention, hailed Short for his "visionary leadership" at IATSE.

"Recent efforts by the IA with workers on programs such as 'America's Next Top Model' and 'Set for Life' and with the E! Channel, all of which are also covered by AFTRA, exemplify areas where we have common interests," Reardon said. "We believe that exploring a closer partnership with our sisters and brothers in the IATSE will provide new avenues to organize union work opportunities for both our memberships."

Separately on Wednesday, AFTRA said member contributions to its pension plan will accrue at a 1.7% rate — up from 1.5% — on annual covered earnings up to $50,000.

Officials said other changes to the retirement plan — all to take effect Dec. 1 — include an increase from $170,000 to $200,000 in the maximum covered earnings used to calculate pension benefits. The annual maximum benefit also will be raised from $96,000 to $108,000.