EXCLUSIVE: I’ve obtained a draft of the ‘Opposition Statement’ explaining why 12.9% of the Screen Actors Guild’s National Board Of Directors voted against the proposed SAG-AFTRA merger. (Click here for the orginal .pdf file.) Let me emphasize again that this is a late draft which may differ slightly from the version about to be handed into SAG at 5 PM today. SAG leadership is limiting the ‘Opposition Statement’ to only 1,000 words and also reserving the right to edit it. So the pro-merger camp may pick and choose what the membership reads from the anti-merger camp when the final ‘Opposition Statemen’ is included in the referendum package being sent out on or about February 27th. Ballots must be returned and results tabulated on March 30th. It will take a 60% affirmative vote within each union to pass a merger referendum. Though the SAG Board’s ‘no’ votes were less than the 25% necessary to mandate a minority report, the guild decided to let the anti-merger camp put its case directly to the membership. Well, almost. I’ve always felt that more information, not less, is the way to go on any issue, and the pros and cons of this SAG-AFTRA merger is must reading for actors, background actors, and stunt performers. Therefore, I want to be certain that SAG members see this ‘Opposition Statement’ draft in its entirety and then compare how it differs from the final version in the referendum package. Who made any changes? What were they? And why? Stay tuned:
SAG ACTORS…HAVE YOU STUDIED THE IMPACT OF THIS MERGER?
IF NOT, HERE ARE CRITICAL FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW:
(Limited to the 1000 words allotted to us)
PENSION & HEALTH
SAG relied upon a ‘Feasibility Review’. All it concluded is that a merger would be LEGAL. No one ever doubted Mergers are legal. What about our benefits?
SAG did not request any study regarding whether a merger would be FINANCIALLY safe. Why? They know, like the AFTRA Trustees, that “the merger of pension and health funds as large and divergent as the AFTRA and SAG plans raises complex and unique financial, legal and benefit issues which can only be addressed through a comprehensive analysis performed by the funds.”
Despite a SAG Constitutional requirement, no such financial study was recommended or done.
Are your benefits safe? The SAG and AFTRA P&H&R Plans are extremely different. Consider merging these factors:
• SAG pension accrual rate: 2% of earnings: AFTRA: less than 1% of earnings
• SAG early retirement penalty: 3% per year. AFTRA is DOUBLE that at 6% per year.
• SAG Health Plan II annual plan premium (family of 4):$1,620
. AFTRA Individual Health Plan annual premium (family of 4): $17,260.
The merger plan does not even attempt to reconcile these and other differences. Experts addressing the financial impact issues are convinced SAG members will likely suffer diminished future benefits.
Highly respected pension and health experts Brucker & Morra have concluded:
“Until a full and formal ERISA Impact Report of how to address and quantify these problems is completed, no one, not even pension experts, can intelligently evaluate or quantify the probable negative impact on the members’ pension and health benefits. The union merger is so inextricably interconnected with the plan merger that members cannot be asked to evaluate and vote on the Union Merger until issues relating to the Plan Merger have been resolved and concrete proposals formulated so the members can make informed choices.”
The issue has always been the impact on SAG member benefits, when merged with lower AFTRA benefits. If the merger is approved, members will never again have any right to vote to protect their pension benefits. If you are concerned about your benefits, this will be your only vote.
If you vote to merge the unions, you are giving permission to later merge the plans. At that time, you will have no voice, no vote and no recourse regarding future benefit reductions.
The merger Plan does not even address, much less solve our split earnings issues. Rather, it will codify the problem. If merger is approved, the stated plan is to CONTINUE to split your earnings, just like during the last 12 months. If the proposed merger is approved, you will have no further right to vote on this issue either.
NEW DUES STRUCTURE
If merger is approved, over 70,000 SAG-only members’ base dues will increase from $116 to $198.
BROADCASTERS – Preferential Treatment
Broadcasters in the merged union can still work NON-UNION on basic cable networks (ESPN, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, FOX NEWS, etc.), with drastically discounted dues compared to actors.
Broadcaster work dues from $0 to $100,000 will be the same as actors at 1.575%. Broadcaster dues from $100,000 to $250,000 are drastically discounted to .274% (and capped at $250,000) with maximum dues of $2,184.
Actors, however, will pay 1.575% on ALL earnings up to $500,000, with maximum dues almost 400% higher: $8,073.
BACKGROUND ACTORS – THREE VOUCHER SYSTEM
The much maligned and poorly regulated SAG Three Voucher entry requirement, will continue
Merging unions does not guarantee more Background jobs. It will guarantee more competition for the same covered jobs.
There is no plan to streamline or eliminate duplicated services post merger. The new union will keep all 635 SAG and AFTRA employees. Nor is there a plan to equalize the existing SAG staff (3.5%) and SAG member (2%) pension accrual rates.
Convention will be the highest governing body in the merged union – higher than the Board of Directors. Convention will have the authority to MERGE with more unions, approve contracts, set policy, control the Constitution/By-Laws and override any decision made by local boards, without giving the membership any direct vote on such matters.
8 out of 10 National officers will be chosen at Convention; not by direct member vote.
The elected President will be able to delegate authority to the Executive VP, also chosen by the Convention, not directly by members.
ELECTED LEADERS MAY RECEIVE PAY.
The SAG Constitution prohibits paying elected officers and board members. The new union Constitution opens the door for payments, currently not permitted.
MAJORITY NO LONGER RULES
Hollywood represents the majority of SAG members, and the majority of revenue. If merged, even a Hollywood majority would not control any issue. Hollywood must secure an additional 5% from other Locals, regardless of its majority vote.
Traditionally, seats on negotiating committees were based on Division/Local earnings. That would no longer be true. The President can simply choose members with National board approval. Those earning the majority of revenue on specific contracts will no longer be guaranteed majority say on those negotiating committees.
EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION
The unions have not exchanged actor contract details. We have no idea how-what-when-why AFTRA gives away residuals in made-for-basic cable shows or other concessions to management.
If merged, the Board, without a member vote, can alone decide whether agents can own or be owned by production entities. The SAG membership rejected the last agent agreement because of this potential conflict of interest.
SAG and AFTRA have been negotiating jointly since 1981. How has that benefited SAG members? AFTRA has routinely undercut SAG interests. A merger of actors is all that is necessary. This merger merely handcuffs SAG.
The current merger plan solves almost nothing and adds too many inherent problems. Vote NO and demand that our union leaders conduct the necessary due diligence to create an agreement which will not harm actors. For more detailed information – Proudly signed by:
Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.