SAG, AFTRA presidents form merger forum

Unit supplements committee already discussing union combo

That much-debated merger of SAG and AFTRA just got another nudge toward the front burner.

SAG said Saturday it has agreed to an AFTRA proposal to form a small working group headed by their respective presidents to discuss the possibility of a merger of the actors unions. A larger joint committee already has been batting around a possible SAG-AFTRA combo.

AFTRA and its president Roberta Reardon long have been on record as favoring a merger with SAG. But SAG only recently has shown signs of warming to the idea following a turnover in leadership at the guild.

"This is a positive step toward uniting SAG and AFTRA and good news for our members," SAG president Ken Howard said. "The creation of a single performers' union is overdue, and I'm pleased to be working with Roberta Reardon, who's been such a champion of that goal."

In 2003, a proposed SAG-AFTRA combo was batted down when 75% of AFTRA members voted to approve the proposal but SAG membership mustered only 58% approval, short of a required 60% "yes" vote by the guild.

In the fall, the unions will begin early joint negotiations with studio reps on their next theatrical and primetime TV pacts, which are set to expire June 30. In a departure from decades of precedent, SAG and AFTRA negotiated their current agreements separately.

Among other actions at the one-day SAG board meeting, Bob Bergen was named national chair of the guild's negotiating committee on TV animation.