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New Rule Lets Actors Combine SAG & AFTRA Earnings To Qualify For Health Care

By | Monday June 30, 2014 @ 2:04pm PDT

New Rule Lets Actors Combine SAG & AFTRA Earnings To Qualify For Health CareAs negotiators work to beat the midnight deadline for a new SAG-AFTRA film and TV contract, the union has taken the first major step toward merging its two separate health care plans. Effective tomorrow, actors for the first time can combine their earnings under SAG and AFTRA’s separate film and TV contracts in order to reach the minimum threshold of $15,100 to qualify for SAG Plan II health benefits. Until now, hundreds of actors who didn’t earn enough under either of the union’s separate TV contracts had to go without union health coverage.

Related: SAG-AFTRA Extras Squeezed Out Of Health & Pension Plans

Income from SAG and AFTRA’s separate contracts earned from April 1, 2013, through March 31 will be combined. Going forward, all earnings reported to both plans during each applicable 12-month base earnings period will be combined to allow for greater access to union health benefits. It is, at least in part, a fulfillment of the promise that one day the union’s two separate plans would be merged into one — which a SAG-AFTRA official said last month was a key goal of the merged union.

Related: SAG-AFTRA Takes “First Step” To Merge Health Plans

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R.I.P. Joseph Ruskin

By | Monday December 30, 2013 @ 6:47pm PST

ruskin3Joseph Ruskin, veteran television, film and stage actor and longtime SAG board member, died Saturday of natural causes at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, according to a statement from SAG-AFTRA. He was 89. Ruskin’s television credits number more than 120 including appearances on The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Murder She Wrote, L.A. Law and most recently Bones. His film work includes roles in The Magnificent Seven, Prizzi’s Honor, Indecent Proposal and Smokin’ Aces. Ruskin began his career in theatre, performing over the years at the Mark Taper Forum, UCLA’s Freud Playhouse and Theater 40. His final performance came this year as a member of the Antaeus Theatre Company.
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SAG Loses Battle Over ‘Leave It To Beaver’ Legal Fees With Insurance Company

By | Thursday July 11, 2013 @ 6:08pm PDT

Lesson for SAG – Don’t mess with the Beav or at least anyone from the classic show. First, the union had to settle a 2007 class action suit from Ken Osmond, who played Eddie Haskell on Leave It To Beaver, and other actors accusing SAG of not properly paying out $8.1 million in overseas royalties. Today the union lost its summary judgment attempt to get Federal Insurance Company to reimburse them over $300,000 in legal fees that they paid out to Osmond in 2010 from the royalties case (read it here). “In this case, SAG’s own coverage position and assertions lead to but one result, which is that, insofar as SAG is and was, prior to the Osmond action, obligated to account for and distribute the foreign levy funds to the plaintiff class, SAG fails to establish that the $330,000 award arises from a ‘covered’ claim under the policy,” wrote Judge Dolly Glee today. It has taken almost two years to get this dispute resolved and probably a few bucks in new fees – and that’s it the union doesn’t appeal. The union first filed their breach of contract and tortious breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing complaint against the insurer on July 22, 2011. On the upside for the union, the US District judge did agree that plaintiff … Read More »

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SAG Awards Submissions Open

By | Monday July 8, 2013 @ 11:15am PDT

LOS ANGELES (Monday, July 8, 2013) – Submissions of performances for consideration for the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations are now open online at sagawards.org/submissions, it was announced today by SAG Awards® Committee Chair JoBeth Williams. Submissions will close on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 5 p.m. (PST).

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Screen Actors Guild Announces Key Dates For 20th Annual Awards

By | Friday March 8, 2013 @ 1:51pm PST

SAG Awards Committee Chair JoBeth Williams today announced the key dates for the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards set for Saturday, January 18, 2014. The awards ceremony will be simulcast live on TNT and TBS at 8 PM ET. Williams also announced that longtime SAG Awards producer Kathy Connell will now serve as executive producer. Submissions for nomination consideration will open on Monday, July 8, 2013, at sagawards.org/submissions. Nominations will be announced on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, at the Pacific Design Center’s SilverScreen Theater in West Hollywood, carried live on TNT, tntdrama.com and www.tbs.com. Click over for upcoming key deadlines and events leading to the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Read More »

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SAG Awards Submissions Open – And Only Accepted Online

By | Monday July 9, 2012 @ 4:22am PDT

LOS ANGELES (Monday, July 9, 2012) – Submissions of performances for consideration for the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards® nominations are now open online at sagawards.org/submissions, it was announced today by SAG Awards® Committee Chair JoBeth Williams. For the first time, submissions will be accepted online only. Submissions will close on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 5 p.m. (PST).

“Implementing an online submissions only policy this year reflects SAG Awards continuing commitment to environmentally sound practices,” Williams explains. The SAG Awards was honored in 2009, 2010 and 2011 with the Environmental Media Association (EMA)’s Green Seal, recognizing a production’s outstanding efforts to implement sustainable initiatives and promote environmental awareness. Online submissions for Actor® nominations have been available since the 9th SAG Awards. Actors and their representatives were advised this time last year that an online submissions only policy would be implemented as of the 19th Annual SAG Awards and were encouraged to try the online procedure if they had not previously done so.

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SAG-AFTRA Anti-Merger Lawsuit Dropped

SAG-AFTRA MergerSAG-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 Lawsuit Dropped

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R.I.P. Yale Summers

By | Monday May 7, 2012 @ 4:50pm PDT

Yale Summers DiedActor and longtime SAG activist Yale Summers died Sunday of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 78. Summers served more than 27 years on the SAG National Board of Directors, 18 years on the National Executive Committee, was national recording secretary and past national treasurer for the guild, and was an emeritus director and a past member of the SAG Foundation board and a trustee of the SAG Pension & Health Funds. He also served 24 years on both the Los Angeles Local Board and National Board of Directors of AFTRA. He also helped found and produce the SAG Awards. Summers made his acting debut with a small part in the 1961 film Mad Dog Coll but did most of his acting on television, playing Dr. Bob Ayres on General Hospital, Jack Dayne on Daktari and Rodney Harrington on Return To Peyton Place.

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“Dissolved” SAG Wants Martin Sheen & Anti-Merger Gang To Pay Legal Fees

By | Wednesday April 25, 2012 @ 6:43pm PDT

A union that doesn’t officially exist anymore filed motions today going through the required rules of procedure and attempting to dismiss a lawsuit that it says is dead – and for that the defunct SAG wants prominent anti-SAG-AFTRA merger advocates such as Martin Sheen, Ed Harris and Diane Ladd to pay “attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by this action.” They also want U.S. District Court Judge James Otero to grant “such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.”

In two separate court required answers (Read them here and here) to the lawsuit filed in February to stop a March 30 members vote on the merging of SAG and AFTRA as one union, the “Screen Actors Guild, a dissolved corporation” and individual defendants claimed the primary issue raised by anti-merger forces as irrelevant because “on March 28, 2012, this court refused to block the merger vote, and that 82% of the SAG members who cast ballots voted in favor of the merger.”

The merger was approved by 81.9% of SAG members and 86.1% of AFTRA members in the returned ballot on March 30, immediately creating the new SAG-AFTRA union. The Current SAG-AFTRA co-president Ken Howard, co-secretary-treasurer Amy Aquino and executive VP Ned Vaughn, VPs Mike Hodge and David Hartley-Margolin and NED David White filed an almost replicate document, also claiming that anti-merger worries about “alleged possible future harm” … Read More »

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Controversial Bruce Dow Exiting (Or Exited) As SAG Pension & Health Plans CEO

By | Wednesday April 25, 2012 @ 3:47pm PDT

SAG Pension & Health Plan Rocked By Lawsuit: Targets CEO Bruce Dow
Feds Probing SAG P&H Embezzlements/Cover-Ups Allegations

EXCLUSIVE… UPDATE: It’s official - Bruce Dow just announced to the staff at 3:10 PM today that he is “retiring” as CEO of the SAG Pension and Health Plans on April 30th. I found out months ago this was in the works the moment Dow became controversial, and that’s why he was on leave for so long. Replacing him will be COO Chris Dowdell serving as Interim CEO. Dow’s stepping down follows considerable controversy, including a civil lawsuit’s descriptions of questionable activities by him, and even what is an “active” federal investigation into allegations he improperly conducted his job there. So the question now remains what if anything the SAG P&H Plans Board Of Trustees plan to do in the way of their own investigation into allegations of executive wrongdoing and accusations that millions of dollars were diverted due to fraud. the Board’s continued attempt to stay silent about the scandal, and possibly even cover it up, shouldn’t be tolerated by SAG membership any longer. Especially with that board consisting of such prominent SAG executive leaders as David White (the SAG National Exective Director newly named sole SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director of the freshly merged union), and John McGuire (longtime SAG executive) and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland (longtime SAG attorney) who were supposed to oversee the membership’s interests on the panel.

2ND Read More »

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SAG-AFTRA MERGER APPROVED! 81.9% Of SAG Ballots Returned Voted Yes; 86.1% Of AFTRA; Single Union Effective Immediately

By | Friday March 30, 2012 @ 1:13pm PDT

SAG AFTRA Approved 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:

SAG:
105,368 number of ballots mailed.
81.9 percent yes votes
53 percent returned

AFTRA:
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, SAG AFTRA Unionincluding 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.

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SAG-AFTRA Merger Voting Results To Be Revealed Today

By | Friday March 30, 2012 @ 8:56am PDT

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 VP Ned Vaughn, AFTRA 2nd national VP Gabrielle Carteris, SAG 2nd national VP Mike Hodge, AFTRA national executive director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth and SAG national executive director David White will be in attendance to answer questions. The briefing is set for 1 PM PT in the James Cagney Boardroom of SAG’s Hollywood headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard.

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Judge Won’t Stop SAG-AFTRA Merger Vote – But Notes Members May See “Decrease In Benefits” Because Of No Actuarial Study

By | Wednesday March 28, 2012 @ 6:06pm PDT

Related: Anti SAG-AFTRA Merger Plaintiffs On Court Decision: “Only Time Will Tell”

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.

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AFTRA Again Dominates Broadcast Pilots But SAG Affiliation Is On The Rise

By | Tuesday March 27, 2012 @ 7:33pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Primetime TV’s seismic shift from SAG to AFTRA representation is credited as one of the driving forces behind the efforts to merge the two actors unions. The current broadcast pilot season, which coincides with the voting period for SAG and AFTRA members on the merger proposal, is once again dominated by AFTRA, but SAG is gaining ground. TV pilots’ shift from SAG to AFTRA affiliation happened overnight in the spring of 2009 when, fearing a possible SAG strike, TV studios went from 90%-plus SAG representation for their pilots the year before to 90%-plus AFTRA affiliation. The next year, 2010, marked the peak of AFTRA pilot dominance, with all but one pilot in the smaller union’s column. Last year, AFTRA started to loosen its grip, with SAG’s market share rising to 11%. Judging by the data I have assembled so far, SAG’s pilot representation has climbed to 20% this pilot season (17 out of 86 pilots). While still dominated by AFTRA, SAG at least is slowly inching toward parity.

Early AFTRA adopter Sony Pictures TV once again went 100% AFTRA, joined this year by 20th Century Fox TV. For a third consecutive year, CBS TV Studios had one SAG-represented pilot, Widow Detective, while Universal TV, ABC Studios and Warner Bros. TV all increased the number of SAG-affiliated pilots this year. Universal TV, Warner Bros TV and ABC Studios have five each: dramas Mockingbird Lane and Notorious and comedies Friday Night Dinner, IsabelRead More »

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SAG Anti-Merger Rally Lacks Star Power

By | Thursday March 22, 2012 @ 3:36pm PDT

Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
SAG AFTRA Merger
About 25 anti-merger SAG members marched in front of the guild’s offices on Wilshire this afternoon, just more than a week before the union votes March 30 on the SAG-AFTRA tie-up. Noticably absent were the likes of Martin Sheen, Ed Harris and other celebrities who have taken to the courts to stop the vote (a judge is expected to issue an order on an injunction at some point in time). Those who did show up chanted anti-merger slogans and pounded on small drums. ”We want to raise aweness of how this will adversely effect member’s pension plans and health plans,” organizer Scott Pierce told Deadline. Merger supporters were on hand as well. “I know some are opposed to the merger, like the people here today, who we’ve seen out before, but remember people like George Clooney and Tom Hanks are very much for it,” said Gabrielle Carteris, AFTRA’s LA president and national VP. “This is a democratic process. Members know it and the judge knows it.” The rally broke up around 3 PM.

Related:
SAG-AFTRA Merger: Pro And Con Videos
SAG-AFTRA Pro- and Anti-Merger Websites

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SAG-AFTRA Lawsuit: March 26 Hearing Canceled

By | Monday March 19, 2012 @ 2:15pm PDT

Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor

SAG AFTRA Merger LawsuitJudge James Otero sent out an order today cancelling the March 26 hearing in the lawsuit filed by Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Diane Ladd and others asking to render the SAG-AFTRA merger vote void before it is conducted. The federal judge said the motion to dismiss the case and the motion for a preliminary injunction “are taken under submission” and added that “an order will be issued” on the matter. Otero gave no indication as to when that might happen or whether it will stop the vote scheduled for March 30.

Related:
SAG-AFTRA Merger: Pro And Con Videos
SAG Anti-Merger Members File Lawsuit Against Screen Actors Guild

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Did Federal Officials “Raid” The SAG P&H Plan Offices?

By | Tuesday March 13, 2012 @ 8:09pm PDT

SAG Pension & Health FundMARCH 15TH UPDATE: New info reaching me is that this visit took place on Wednesday, March 7th, and not on Friday, March 9th, as I’d previously reported. EXCLUSIVE: Feds Formally Investigating Allegations Of SAG Pension & Health Plan’s Pair Of Embezzlements And Cover-Ups

EXCLUSIVE: SAG sources tell me that federal government agencies “raided” the SAG Pension & Health Plan offices last Wednesday Friday. Unmarked cars arrived around 5 PM, stayed for five hours and left with several dozen boxes. Insiders believe the feds were either FBI or Department of Justice. All, including the Department of Labor and the Securities and Exchange Commission, had been contacted regarding the alleged embezelment claims surrounding SAG’s P&H Plan and the Craig Simmons filings. It now looks like this entire matter is being investigated by federal officials. I’ve asked SAG for confirmation, but on matters of the P&H Plan the guild normally points out that it’s separate from the union. I’m out of town but will have more on this Wednesday.

Related:
SAG Health & Pension Plan Fund Scandal: Hundreds Sign Petition For Impartial Probe
Bad Health & Pension News For SAG Members

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SAG-AFTRA Merger Ballots Mailed Out

By | Tuesday February 28, 2012 @ 2:29pm PST

SAG-AFTRA Pro- And Anti-Merger Websites

LOS ANGELES – The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild on Monday sent out ballots to approximately 131,000 members of both organizations.

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.

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SAG & AFTRA Presidents Send Letter To Members, Call Merger “Historic Opportunity”

By | Sunday January 29, 2012 @ 4:28pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

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.

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