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SAG & AFTRA Talk Merger In Closed-Door Meeting

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Leaders of SAG and AFTRA held a closed-door meeting on Tuesday night in Los Angeles to hear opinions on the possibility of merging the two unions, reports the Hollywood Reporter. According to sources, approximately 235 attendees were split roughly 50-50 for and against such a decision.

However, those percentages are reportedly "not representative of the electorate," as SAG’s Hollywood Division is strongly pro-merger having elected candidates in the past three election cycles who are from the Unite for Strength camp. Merger proponents argue that the two unions will "continue to share an awkward overlapping jurisdiction over television and new media work," unless a merger occurs, notes the Hollywood Reporter.

Health and pension were key issues for members on both sides of the argument:

Supporters of uniting the two unions pointed at the meeting to the “split earnings” problem: with theatrical work exclusively SAG, and new television shows (and, thus, much though not all television work) being done under AFTRA contracts, actors who are members of both unions find their earnings split between two sets of pension and health plans. That makes it harder for those “dual cardholders” to meet the required earnings thresholds for either union’s pension or health plans. They can be left with no health insurance, for instance, even if their earnings in aggregate would have qualified were there a single union and single health plan... Merger skeptics are...asking for a certitude on P&H that the unions won’t be able to deliver, even next January - but, among other things, they’re also reluctant to vote for a merger that involves a leap into the unknown on benefits matters.

Other interesting ideas included some members pushing for a mega-union to organize reality TV participants and non-fiction basic cable networks while others hoped a SAG-AFTRA merger would also absorb Actors Equity, the stage actors union.
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SAG and AFTRA declined to comment for this story, notes the Hollywood Reporter.