SAG-AFTRA merger opponents who lost their attempt to enjoin the two unions combining but continued with their lawsuit are dropping it. Below is the letter they wrote to SAG counsel explaining why they’ve agreed to dismiss their case. The stipulation will be filed today or tomorrow. This follows SAG-AFTRA threatening to go after each anti-merger litigant personally to repay the union’s legal fees:
SAG-AFTRA MERGER APPROVED! 81.9% Of SAG Ballots Returned Voted Yes; 86.1% Of AFTRA; Single Union Effective Immediately
BREAKING… 3RD UPDATE: The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists are now one union effective immediately. The announcement was greeted with huge cheers, applause, hugs, and the mass singing of “We Shall Overcome” inside the headquarters. SAG President Ken Howard and AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon, both strong advocates of the merger, announced the referendum results today in Los Angeles saying, “SAG-AFTRA is born.” Howard continued, “This is the day that we have decisively chosen a path of unity and strength. This is the culmination of years of work. People have worked for this goal for decades. We stand on your shoulders. The members wanted merger, they wanted it as soon as possible and, member, you can be assured that you were heard. You have sent a message to our employers. You have said loud and clear this is not a fractured group but a united group. We are committed to helping to shape the future of the industries. In a single day our future has become brighter.”
After the announcement Howard told Deadline that “relief” was his persnal reaction to the refrendum result. “This merger was so necessary to the future of actors and I wanted it be resoundingly approved,” he said. “That they approved it with such a massive mandate is a huge answer for us going forward.” The single union now represents more than 150,000 actors, announcers, broadcasters journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals. Their work can be seen and heard in theaters, on television and radio, sound recordings, the Internet, games, mobile devices and home video.
Immediately, the AMPTP which represents Big Media’s studios and networks stated about the merged union: “The AMPTP looks forward to a cooperative relationship with the new performers’ organization as we endeavor to address the challenges of operating in an industry undergoing transformation.” The Directors Guild as well as the Writers Guild West and East also sent congratulations.
One nagging issue which no one at today’s podium wanted to address with substance was the future (and possible merger) of the SAG and AFTRA pension and health plans. Said SAG Executive Director David White who also has been on the Board Of Trustees of the SAG P&HP: “I think today we are celebrating but we are going to begin the process. But we don’t have much more to add at this point.” And Ken Howard said, “I think they will get a lot stronger over time. We were able to clear up a lot of misconceptions. Let me give you an example, vested pensions are protected by federal law. So they will not be diluted.”
The referendum results were:
105,368 number of ballots mailed.
81.9 percent yes votes
53 percent returned
65,744 number of ballots mailed.
86.18 percent of yes votes
51.7 percent returned
Big cheers erupted when Ken Howard said, ”Let me introduce my esteemed SAG-AFTRA Co-President Roberta Reardon, who said, “What an incredible culmination of two years of hard work. We stand as one. This new union will give us the collective voice and presence to protect our present contracts. Finally we are able to speak with one unified voice. In life there’s rarely reward without risk. There is power in a union.”
Asked by Deadline what they had to say to the anti-merger forces, Reardon replied: “I encourage them to stay involved. It’s a big tent.” To which Howard said, ”Ditto”.
AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth said: ”This is a historic day not just for our members but the American labor movement… Today’s vote is a bold statement that union solidarity is alive and well and will not be denied.”
The first convention of the new ‘SAG-AFTRA’ union is scheduled to be held in Los Angeles around September 2013. Click here to see the merger agreement document. The results, tallied by Integrity Voting Systems, were also streamed live online Friday afternoon. A result of 60% or more from the valid returned ballots cast in each union’s vote was required for the merger to be approved. More than 131,000 ballots were sent out on February 27th to members of both unions. The deadline for ballots to be returned to be counted was 10 AM PST today. Union members were encouraged to approve the merger by their respective national boards who claimed that “one union will increase our bargaining leverage”. But anti-merger forces led by Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Anne-Marie Johnson, and other high profile critics cited concerns about other issues, including the lack of a formal study to determine how SAG’s and AFTRA’s health and pension plans would be handled after the merger. The anti-merger group went to court to stop the vote. But on March 28, Judge James Otero dismissed their effort. However, Otero did allow the anti-merger force’s claims that the SAG board breached fiduciary duties in the proposed merger and of breach of contract to continue in the courts. But today’s referendum culminates a merger effort that has been rejected in the past by SAG members several times.
Here is the SAG-AFTRA announcement:
LOS ANGELES (March 30, 2012) — The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild are pleased to announce that members of both organizations have overwhelmingly voted to approve a merger, creating a new entity, SAG-AFTRA. SAG members voted 82 percent in favor of the merger. AFTRA members favored the merger with 86 percent, exceeding the 60 percent threshold needed for both unions’ membership for passage.
UPDATE, 8:56 AM FRIDAY: Today’s press conference will be live-streamed at sagaftra.org.
PREVIOUS, WEDNESDAY PM: SAG national president Ken Howard, AFTRA national president Roberta Reardon, SAG secretary-treasurer Amy Aquino, AFTRA treasurer Matt Kimbrough, SAG 1st national …
Judge Won’t Stop SAG-AFTRA Merger Vote – But Notes Members May See “Decrease In Benefits” Because Of No Actuarial Study
U.S. District Court Judge James Otero rejected the anti SAG-AFTRA merger efforts by Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Diane Ladd, and others to render the vote void before it is conducted. So now the SAG-AFTRA merger referendum results will be known after 1 PM Friday. But the judge noted that while he would not dismiss the anti-merger forces’ claims that the SAG board breached fiduciary duties in the proposed merger, especially its effects on SAG member’s pension and health plans, “If the merger is approved by the Membership, and the Members eventually see a decrease in benefits, it will be the result of their informed decision to vote for merger without the benefit of an actuarial study. The democratic process does not always yield the most desirable results for all.” The judge also rejected SAG’s attempt to dismiss the suit outright and allowed the anti-merger forces’ breach of contract claim to continue. Today’s decision comes just over a week after the judge cancelled a March 26 hearing on the matter and chose instead to issue an order.
Here’s partial reaction from the antimerger force that brought the lawsuit:
Unfortunately, only time will tell whether or not the concerns brought to light by this litigation were heeded. Our greatest concern is that a year from now, members who voted for the merger will find out that, as this lawsuit predicts, their pension and health benefits will be diminished and the split earnings issue will effectively continue. Members will still be unable to qualify for benefits because their combined earnings will likely have to exceed an increased earnings threshold. Plaintiffs continue to believe that the decision of the union not to conduct a professional, actuarial study, was done intentionally to hide those findings from a membership that needed to know the truth. The Court made no finding to the contrary.
Here’s the SAG announcement:
Los Angeles, Calif.– Federal Judge James Otero today denied the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction in Sheen v SAG clearing the way for Screen Actors Guild’s merger referendum ballot counting to go forward as scheduled on Friday, March 30.
Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
JPMorgan Chase has potentially settled for $150 million with the AFTRA retirement fund and others to cover losses from toxic hedge fund investments. Lawyers for AFTRA and other plaintiffs in the case against the bank’s Sigma Finance fund called the proposed deal “fair, …
The mailer included full details of the proposed SAG-AFTRA merger, including the Merger Agreement and Constitution, which were overwhelmingly approved by both unions’ national boards in January, as well as a Pension & Health/Health & Retirement Feasibility Report.
Members may also review the ballot package at SAGAFTRA.org, view a livestream informational meeting on Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT, and attend upcoming local informational meetings to ask questions. Ballots must be received at the assigned post office box no later than 10 a.m. PDT, March 30.
Voting by phone or Internet closed Jan. 30, with affected members voting close to 99% in favor of approving the Sound Recordings Code. The ratification is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012 and runs through Dec. 31, 2014.
AFTRA members achieved an increase in base rates, as well as the key objective of increasing employer contributions to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds. Highlights of the contract include:
- Increase in base rates by more than 6% over the term of the agreement (2% increases effective each year of the contract)
- Increase in the employer health and retirement contribution rate on royalty income by 1% over the life of the agreement
- Maintained required special employer contributions which guarantee health insurance benefits for royalty artists on the current “roster” of a label, by increasing the maximum on employer contributions by 30%, from $5,000 to $6,500 per year
- Improved and expanded performers’ base of participation in revenue from sale of digital downloads
- Established a new structure of revenue-based payments for new areas of low budget licenses and licenses for non-traditional usages, such as re-use of recordings in novelty consumer products, which will also enhance compliance and expedite payments to members
There has been a lot to process for SAG and AFTRA members this weekend between the votes by the union’s boards to approve a merger and the SAG Awards. Also today, SAG president Ken Howard and his AFTRA counterpart Roberta Reordan sent a joint letter to their members detailing the ballot procedure. As part of it, SAG and AFTRA will launch a joint Web site on Feb.3. Here is the letter:
To Our Fellow AFTRA and SAG Members:
This weekend, the SAG and AFTRA National Boards took a decisive step to strengthen our future by overwhelmingly endorsing a plan to merge the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild. If members approve the merger, the new union will be called SAG-AFTRA.
No surprise on the timing of these SAG and AFTRA …
No surprise on the timing of these SAG and AFTRA National Board Of Directors votes because an announcement will be made at the SAG Awards televised Sunday …
LOS ANGELES (January 16, 2012) — The AFTRA and SAG Group for One Union (G1) met for nine days in Los Angeles to continue the process of creating a successor union to SAG and AFTRA. After productive discussions and reaching consensus, a Merger Package was approved by the G1 to send to the respective boards of AFTRA and SAG for approval. The SAG National Board of Directors will meet on Jan. 27 and 28 to review and vote on the package, which includes a Merger Agreement and Constitution. The AFTRA National Board of Directors will meet on Jan. 28 and, if needed, Jan. 29 to review and vote on the package.
Details of the proposed merger package will not be released prior to the AFTRA and SAG board meetings.
AFTRA’s board had signed off on a strike-authorization vote back in October after negotiations broke down for a successor agreement to the AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Sound Recordings. It’s the second-largest national contract and covers singers, royalty and non-royalty artists, as well as announcers, actors, comedians, narrators and sound effects artists who work on recordings in all new and traditional media and all music formats, in addition to audiobooks, comedy albums and cast albums. The Code generates more than $140 million annually in AFTRA-covered earnings and benefits for both major artists and session singers around the country. Here’s AFTRA’s release today:
LOS ANGELES (Dec. 15, 2011) – The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO – a national union of more than 70,000 recording artists, broadcasters, actors, singers, dancers and other performers who work across the spectrum of media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings and digital media – announced today that it has reached a tentative agreement with the recording industry on a new, successor agreement to AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Sound Recordings. The current Sound Recordings Code is scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2011.
AFTRA members achieved an increase in base rates, as well as the key objective of increasing employer contributions to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds.
After a month of negotiations, AFTRA has reached a tentative 3-year agreement with the Big 4 broadcast networks and other producers for a new Network Television Code, which covers all programming except network scripted primetime series. The most recent one-year extension to the previous AFTRA Network Television Code expired on Nov. 15. The new agreement, which runs from Nov. 16, 2011 through Nov. 15, 2014, calls for a 1% increase in employer contributions to the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds upon ratification as well as a 2% wage increase every year. Here is the announcement with additional details:
LOS ANGELES (Dec. 9, 2011) – The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO – a national union of more than 70,000 performers, recording artists and broadcast professionals – today announced that AFTRA members have reached a tentative agreement with the four major television broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) and other producers on terms for a successor agreement to the AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting, aka, the “Front of the Book.” Negotiations began on Nov. 7, and were held at the offices of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
AFTRA members achieved their primary objective in this negotiation: a 1% increase in employer contributions to the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds upon ratification, which will bring the total H&R contribution rate to 16.5%. Upon ratification, the three-year agreement will run from Nov. 16, 2011 through Nov. 15, 2014.
Other highlights include:
- Increase wages by 6% over the term of the agreement (2% each year) for most categories
- Increase minimum hazard pay for Dancers from $80 to $100 per day, and from $100 to $125 per program
- The $37.50 overtime rate for Singers will be paid starting at the 7th instead of the 9th hour
- Increase the minimum work day for Stand-Ins who work on primetime variety and award shows, which will increase the minimum daily rate by 20% to 67%
- Improved contract language to increase equal employment opportunities for union performers including an agreement to add “Gender Identity” to the Union’s Paragraph 97 diversity report form
In light of AFTRA National Director of Communication Christopher de Haan’s pending departure, the actors union has promoted PR executive Leslie Simmons to Assistant Director, AFTRA National Communications Department. Simmons is expected to head AFTRA’s communications department after de Haan leaves on December 16 to join entertainment PR …