SAG supports AFTRA merger in magazine

But 1st vp Anne-Marie Johnson voices opposition in column

Last month, AFTRA devoted two pages in its official magazine to a call for merger with the SAG. This week, SAG doubled that effort.

The new issue of the guild’s Screen Actor magazine contains a one-page report from the SAG/AFTRA Relations Task Force that makes a favorable case for merger with AFTRA, as well as full-page columns from three guild officials supporting close relations between the two unions. But a column from SAG’s 1st vp expresses opposition to merger and illustrates how deeply divided the union remains on the issue.

The report from the task force hails AFTRA president Roberta Reardon’s public support for merger, then details the benefits that merger would yield. “Of course, the defining reason to form a single union is clear: Our bargaining power is increased if we cannot be divided,” the report says.

SAG president Ken Howard’s column echoes that sentiment.

“The inefficiency of funding separate organizations to provide essentially the same services is yet another costly problem,” he writes. “These issues must be addressed.”

Guild treasurer Amy Aquino also expresses support for merger in her letter to members, and executive director David White touts the recent decision by the two unions to jointly negotiate their primetime network television contracts; negotiations are scheduled to begin in October.

But 1st vp Anne-Marie Johnson sounds a discordant note in her column.

“Any talk, from either union, regarding merger or the creation of a ‘new union’ is premature and somewhat presumptuous,” she writes. Johnson, a member of SAG’s MembershipFirst faction, which has long been critical of AFTRA, ran against Howard for the guild’s presidency last year.

For SAG and AFTRA to merge, 60% of members in both unions must vote in favor of it. SAG members shot down attempts to unite the organizations in 1999 and 2003.