Spring 2011

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A LETTER TO MEMBERS From President KEN HOWARD Dear Member, both unions’ boards directed that a formal merger plan be completed by January 2012. If the boards approve the plan, the members of SAG and AFTRA could vote to merge our unions as early as next spring. Talking with SAG members in listening tour meetings across the country has been a T “ Our most valuable opportunity to work together is now before us…We need to become one union to protect and strengthen our shared future.” vibrant reminder of how diverse, talented and involved our membership is. It’s also given me an even stronger sense of their feelings about merger. The message — from SAG and AFTRA members alike — is clear: We need to merge now. Traveling to some of the SAG branches where we already share joint offices and staff with AFTRA, it can be tempting to think that our unions’ cooperative relationship is already serving members well enough. Why not simply extend the joint-office model nationwide? Do we really need to merge? The answer, even from the members in those branches, is a resounding yes. The cooperative relationship between SAG and AFTRA oſten works remarkably well, but it can’t address the problem of new performers being told they have to join two unions, and pay two very large initiation fees, to do the same work. It doesn’t alleviate the burden of paying two sets of union dues for years on end. And it does nothing at all to help members who find their work divided, and their pension and health contributions split, in a way that keeps them from qualifying for those crucial benefits. Some of the most painful stories I’ve heard have been from members who have lost desperately needed health coverage because of this. These issues, which affect members in a very personal way, are reason enough to merge. But the most important reason to unite SAG and AFTRA lies in the basic vulnerability that comes from having two unions organizing the same type of work. Overlapping jurisdiction allows our employers to create harmful competition between our unions. The entertainment and media conglomerates that control our industry understand this, and they will continue to exploit that advantage until we put a stop to it by forming one union. The prospect of SAG and AFTRA competing not only undermines our shared goal of protecting performers, it doesn’t even make sense. Our members are not competitors, but colleagues. We work intimately together and support one another, no matter which union is covering the job. I’m SAG’s president, but I’ve also been a member of AFTRA for 40 years. Am I supposed to compete with myself? It’s nonsense, of course. Our most valuable opportunity to work together is now before us. The SAG Merger Task Force and AFTRA’s New Union Committee will engage in months of collaboration to create the right plan to unite SAG and AFTRA — one that draws on the best traditions of each union, but is responsive to the challenges we face today. Both our organizations have rich histories, distinct cultures and unique identities, but the members of SAG and AFTRA have an even greater common need: We need to become one union to protect and strengthen our shared future. In unity, he most exciting news I’ve been able to share as SAG president can be found on page 12, in the story "SAG, AFTRA Boards Vote to Move Forward with Merger." The SAG National Board voted unanimously to create a Merger Task Force, and Ken Howard 6 SCREEN ACTOR - Spring 2011

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