New SAG-AFTRA to Feature an Array of Officers and Delegates (Exclusive)

Chris Godley

If merger passes, the existing union structures will yield to a hybrid with broad geographic and occupational representation.

If SAG and AFTRA merge, the new union will be called “SAG-AFTRA” and it will look something like a hybrid of its two forbearers, according to a still-confidential proposal that was finalized Sunday by a joint committee of the two unions.

The organization will be governed on an interim basis by co-presidents and a combined board, but the ultimate structure will feature a president, national executive vice-president, secretary/treasurer and a national board of about 80 members. There will also be 10 additional VPs, who will be allocated to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, smaller cities, and various occupational categories, such as actors, broadcasters and singers.

All of those officers and board members would also constitute an ex officio portion of the 400-500 delegates to the new union’s biennial convention, said a source who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter on a confidential basis.

Joining the new union won’t be as simple as just signing up and paying an initiation fee, as is the case with AFTRA today. However, there are expected to be avenues for joining that take account of a candidate’s education and training, factors that might make membership more achievable for some qualified actors than under current SAG procedures.

Still unresolved is who will be the new union’s national executive director, or top paid staff person. SAG’s David White and AFTRA’s Kim Roberts Hedgpeth are expected to be co-NEDs for several months but who will depart after that is unknown. It’s likely to be a difficult and emotional choice for both executives and their supporters.

The merger package is technically still a set of recommendations to the SAG and AFTRA boards. They’ll be briefed on the details in a videoconference meeting this Sunday, with discussion and debate in the separate boardrooms the following weekend.

Assuming – as is virtually certain – that the boards approve the proposal, the package would then be sent to the two unions’ membership for a vote, a phase that SAG president Ken Howard and AFTRA president Roberta Reardon are likely to kick off with an announcement at the nationally televised SAG Awards on Jan. 30.

The ballots will probably go out in February, with a return date in March. Within each union, it takes a 60 percent affirmative vote, of those voting, in order to pass a merger referendum. The last merger attempts, in 1998 and 2003, foundered. In both cases, AFTRA passed the resolution, but SAG didn’t. SAG’s 2003 vote was 57.78 percent in favor, or about 2 percent shy of the requisite number.

In the last several years, however, SAG Hollywood members have voted overwhelmingly in favor of pro-merger candidates, which may foreshadow a thumbs up this time around.


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